The Abruzzesi adore their baked fish,(Pesce al Cartoccio), and it varies in each of the 3 provinces that nudge its Adriatic coast. It’s one of those dishes that waiters always test the water with to see how ‘local’ you’ve become as it takes time to marinate and cook especially if they’re offering a whole fish! Those ‘in the know’ are always willing to be patient especially if under an umbrella with a bottle of Cerasuolo and only the waves to keep them company. Expect to encounter both fillet and whole, and a range of local fish from Adriatic snapper, bream, mullet and monkfish alongside cod that will be healthily fixed with olives and potatoes, courgettes, agretti or, like this recipe, a salty lemon and caper mash.
Daniela from Abruzzo Villas shared this recipe with us, a favourite of her mum Orsola Pergolari. This resourceful, fabulous cook moved with her family from Spoleto to coastal Silvi Marina after the war and went to study English in London where she met her husband and moved to his home country, Bahrain. Here she recognised the need for an Italian restaurant that served fresh pasta and in the mid-1980s opened Mammamia. Her reputation for perfect pasta grew and she went on to supply The Ritz and other 5 star hotels as well as the national airline and other carriers that stopped in Bahrain before she retired.
- Prepare the mash using the anchovies, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, capers, salt, pepper and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Marinate the fish in this for 15 minutes.
- Cut a piece of aluminum foil that is large enough to hold the fillets of fish, then spread a little butter over one side of it.
- Place the fillets of fish in the middle of the buttered foil with the remaining mash spread over the top. Fold over the foil and seal together the edges of the foil.
- Place the foil on a baking tray and put in the oven and cook for around 25/30 minutes at 200 C.
- Open foil at the table to allow your guests to enjoy the aroma of this dish
- Serve with side dishes of steamed mixed vegetables and potatoes drizzled with olive oil and salt.