05 January 2007

Dieter's delight

Well it’s back to work today, after a wonderfully relaxing break for the holidays. (For “relaxing”, read: 3 weeks-plus of taking virtually no exercise, and eating plenty of gingerbread men, iced butter cookies, slices of rich fruitcake topped with icing sugar, and every other fattening holiday treat known to man on a daily basis …)

Like many of you, Chefette and the Husband are starting the New Year full of resolve to lose an inch around the middle, and firm up those jiggly bits. I should clarify at once that, in our household, this will under no circumstances involve eating less. The Husband’s appetite is grand, and never wanes. And nothing is surer to drive Chefette running, panicked, into the arms of a chip butty than the prospect of food deprivation.

What it does mean is taking care to put plenty of tasty, wholesome food into one’s body. Let me state emphatically that this is not about consuming those diet food products dreamt up by the processed food industry. What on earth is the point of reduced-calorie cheese or zero-fat biscuits? They taste disgusting, and serve only to drag you down into the mindset of deprivation, reminding you of how much you’d rather be eating the real thing.

Much better simply to eat more of what you love that’s really good for you. Going for those favourite dishes that are naturally splendid in flavour, only they just happen to be low in fat, or high in vitamins.

For me, nothing is more of a dieter’s delight than steamed fish. High in lean protein, low in fat. And best of all, the steaming process protects all the delicate flavours. Usually I do this Chinese style, sea bass fillets steamed with black bean sauce and garnished with lashings of thinly sliced spring onion. But last Wednesday I had a successful go with a nice trout fillet, so thought I’d share the recipe. (Traditionally, en papillotte means steaming in individual paper parcels, but I find that foil makes a more effective seal.) Enjoy whether or not you are on a diet!

Trout fillets en papillote with lemon & dill dressing

Serves 2

2 trout fillets of around 150-175g each, skin left on
½ a large leek (including some white and some light green)
1 tablespoon of Noilly Prat (or other white French vermouth)
Sunflower spray oil
Salt & pepper

For the dressing:
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ a lemon
1-2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh dill
S&P to taste

Preheat oven to 425F/220C.

Wash the ½ leek well. Cut down the centre lengthways, and leave the segments to soak in plenty of cold water for a good 10-15 minutes. The place where the green meets the white is usually the most gritty, so take extra care to rinse out any flecks of dirt.

While the leek segments are soaking, line a lipped baking tray with aluminium foil. Try to choose one that is just big enough to hold the fillets. Spray a very thin layer of sunflower oil on the foil. Put the fish fillets skin side down on the oiled surface. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

When the leek segments are thoroughly cleaned, cut them on the diagonal into thin slices. Scatter these evenly over the fish fillets. Sprinkle the vermouth over the fillets. Cover the entire tray with a top layer of aluminium foil, making sure the edges are well sealed. Bake on a high shelf in the oven for 8-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets.

While the fish is in the oven, mix all the dressing ingredients together. As soon as the trout is barely cooked through, remove from the oven, and carefully slide the fillets onto your plates, and pour the dressing over top.

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