Meagre (gurbell) is one of the most delicious fish that is available locally. It has a fleshy texture, with a mild taste that will please both fish lovers and those who are not regular fish eaters. When cooked, it almost melts in your mouth. Surprisingly, chicken stock is a great base for cooking meagre. The fish overpowers the taste of the chicken stock, to produce very delicious flavours.

Another very quick way to cook filleted meagre is to steam it in an infusion of chicken stock for around 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. Allow 150g to 200g of filleted meagre per portion.

Meagre al Cartoccio, with Roasted Fennel Potatoes

You will need:
1 large meagre
3 lemons
2 large cloves garlic cut into halves
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to season
A bunch of fresh mint and fresh parsley
Baking paper and tin foil

Ask your fishmonger to clean, gut and de-scale the meagre but do not remove the head or tail. Rinse the fish and pat it dry with some kitchen towel.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Cut a large piece of baking paper about 3 times larger than the size of the fish. Place the baking paper on a flat surface. Use a brush dipped in olive oil to lightly coat the baking paper. Brush the meagre with olive oil on both sides. Place on the baking paper. Cut up 2 lemons into thin slices. Squeeze the juice of the other lemon and keep aside.

In the cavity of the fish, neatly place the slices of lemon and then season with salt and pepper. Put the four garlic halves on top of the lemons and then half the fresh parsley and mint, roughly chopped. Drizzle a few drops of lemon juice and some olive oil. Lay the meagre carefully on the baking paper. Drizzle the top of the fish with olive oil and some more lemon juice. Wrap the fish neatly in the baking paper. Then wrap it in tinfoil. Place the parcel on a large baking tray and bake in a hot oven. Calculate that meagre weighing 500g needs half an hour at 200°C when it is wrapped in foil. To check if it is cooked, simply poke with a fork. It is cooked when the fish flakes.

To serve, garnish the whole fish with the rest of the fresh herbs, a drizzle of olive oil and arrange some more fresh herbs and lemon slices in the cavity. Add some sliced cherry tomatoes and olives. Allow the fish to rest for five minutes before serving.

This is a gluten-free, lactose-free, dairy-free, nut-free, diabetic-friendly recipe with no added sugar.

For the roasted potato with fennel seeds, you will need:

4 large potatoes

6 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons fennel seeds, crushed

Fresh mint leaves

Grease a flat ovenproof dish with olive oil. Cut the potatoes into very thin slices with the skin on and using your hands mix in some olive oil, sea salt and crushed fennel seeds. Overlap the slices neatly on an ovenproof dish.

Drizzle with a touch of olive oil and spread around with a brush. Do not overdo it. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle more crushed fennel seeds and cook in oven for about 40 minutes depending on how crusty you like your potatoes.

Garnish with whole fresh mint leaves and serve with the meagre al cartoccio.

This is a gluten-free, lactose-free, dairy-free and nut-free recipe.

Meagre with sweet potato and kale

You will need:
1 large meagre fish
1/2 large sweet potato
1/2 fresh turmeric root
4 fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
6 kale leaves, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes, stem removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ready-made red pepper pesto
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Ask your fishmonger to fillet the meagre and remove the skin. Peel the sweet potato and grate it. Grate the fresh turmeric and add it to the sweet potato, gently mixing it through. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Lightly brush an ovenproof dish with olive oil. Lay a fillet of meagre on the dish.

Mix the red pesto with 2 tablespoons of water. Brush the fish fillet lightly with the red pesto mix.

Neatly spread the grated sweet potato and turmeric mixture on top of the fillet. Add the chopped tarragon leaves, salt and pepper. Brush one side of the second fillet with the red pesto mix.

Place the fillet, pesto side down, on top of the sweet potato mix. Brush the top of the fillet with olive oil and place in a hot oven for 10 minutes.

Prepare the kale by trimming the leaves and removing the tough stalk. Immerse the leaves in boiling water for 2 minutes.

Take the fish out of the oven and lay the strips of kale across the meagre fillets leaving gaps between one strip and the other.

Tuck the strips under the meagre fillet if they are not long enough. If the leaves are longer tuck them under the bottom fillet of fish. Brush the exposed kale leaves with olive oil and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top of the kale.

Return to the hot oven for another 15 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Cut portions of the fish and serve individually.

This dish is also delicious if it is refrigerated and served cold with a salad.

Asian Style Meagre with Pak Choi and Chinese Cabbage

You will need:
2 meagre fillets
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 small onion
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
150g mixed mushrooms
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
250g cooked jasmine rice
1/2cup fresh peas
1 cup Chinese cabbage
1 cup pak choi
½ cup fresh peas
2 tablespoons fresh coriander
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Ask your fishmonger to fillet the meagre with skin on.

Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan on medium heat.

Finely chop the onion and slice the mushrooms, the Chinese cabbage and Pak Choi

Add the chopped onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the variety of mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes on medium heat. Add the Chinese cabbage and Pak Choi. Remove the pan from the heat and add the soy sauce and honey and sesame oil. Keep aside.

In a saucepan immerse the fresh peas in boiling water. Turn off the heat and allow to stand in the hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and keep aside.

To cook the meagre:

Heat a griddle pan until it is extremely hot.

Season the meagre with salt and pepper and brush with sunflower oil. Place the meagre fillets skin side down and sear for 6 minutes. Flip over and turn down the heat. Cook the fish flesh side down for 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the meagre fillets in the pan. Cover the pan and allow to rest for a few minutes.

Assemble the meagre in serving plates with the cooked jasmine rice and the medley of vegetables. Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves and serve.

Lea’s Good Food Everyday is aired in English every Friday at 4.10pm and 9pm. You can follow Lea’s blog on www.goodfoodeveryday.wordpress.com and find more of her recipes on www.timesofmalta.com.

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