I’ve been eyeing-off the big paperbark trees in my street for many months now; thinking of which one I can take to with a knife to strip big sheets to wrap a fish in, then barbeque. It so happens that we were sniffing around The Essential Ingredient in Rozelle when I spotted packaged rolls of paperbark, ready to use, sitting in the fridge. It was a sign. Leave the neighbourhood trees alone and buy the packaged stuff. Although I’m sure I’ll get to the trees one day.
The concept for this recipe is pretty uncomplicated. Fish wrapped in a casing, some external heat, some internal steaming and a tenderly flakey fish as an outcome. Easy. Where I’ve used parsley, you could use coriander. You can use any fish you desire as well. I actually wanted a coral trout but nobody was selling them at the time. A barra would do. Earthy flavours and creamy-white flesh that’s infused with smokiness from the charring paperbark. The zesty pops from finger lime is just about all this fish needs.
The trick is to wet the bark first, otherwise it’ll burn all the way through to the fish. Once wrapped, I gave the parcel another light sprinkle of water. Don’t be tempted to keep turning the fish. Do it once, and once only. If you’re not sure if it’s cooked, just pierce a tiny hole through the bark and poke the flesh. Smaller fish won’t take as long, so use your instincts.
As for the sides, I spotted some jerusalem artichokes at the market and deemed them perfect. Autumnal, hearty and pretty tasty with fresh thyme and a beer reduction. Go with white wine if you’re not keen on using beer.
Preheat a barbecue over low heat.
Take the paperbark and brush any loose fibres away. Drizzle or spray it with water to moisten well. Lay it out ant place two of the Chinese broccoli leaves in the centre.
Cut parallel slashes into both sides of the barramundi. Rub 2 tablespoons of oil onto both sides of the fish then season both sides with salt, black pepper and mountain pepper. Lay the fish on top of the Chinese broccoli leaves and stuff the cavity with the lime wedges, ginger and parsley. Lay two more Chinese broccoli leaves over the fish and wrap tightly with the paperbark, tucking in the edges and tying it with twine. Lay the parcel onto the barbecue and cook for 20 minutes on one side, then another 20 minutes once you’ve flipped it. If your barbecue has a lid, put it down.
To make the jerusalem artichoke, heat the oil in a medium skillet and toss in the cut artichokes. Sauté for a minute over medium heat, then add the garlic. Stir constantly until the garlic starts to change colour, then add the thyme and beer. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer until the liquid has reduced to a syrup consistency. Check for seasoning.
When the fish is done, allow it to rest for 5 minutes before tearing open. To serve, squeeze over some finger lime pulp and flake off the meat. Serve the jerusalem artichokes on the side, with a salad if you wish.