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The Cooking Witch: Autumn Barbeque

Updated on October 5, 2015

Barbeque for beginners

The Cooking Witch

Autumn Barbeque

It’s the first Sunday in October and a glorious, warm day. Obviously we’re going to have a cook-out.

Considering the contents of the freezer, which are an embarrassment of riches, we decide that a simple repast will suffice.

Rainbow Trout with ginger & mushrooms en papilotte

Chicken breast in barbeque sauce en papilotte

The Wonders of Papilotte - AKA Parcels.

For those less accomplished in the culinary arts, ‘en papilotte’ means wrap the damn things in tinfoil. Originally it was greaseproof paper, or if you were a full-fledged chef, baking parchment. Us oiks use tinfoil, on account of the risk of momentary distraction causing the paper to catch fire. Barbeques abound with such: the need for another beer, distracted by a flower or weed, or attacked by a kamikaze wasp. It happens. Use tinfoil and be at peace. At least you will get to eat.

The most wonderful aspect of this cooking method is the elimination of washing-up from the equation, apart from a couple of plates. No greasy pots, no scrubbing the barbeque, just cook, eat & go. I recommend it highly.

So, how do you transform a limp fish, a wobbly lump of dead hen and an assortment of vegetable matter into a delicious repast? Read and learn, my dear. Read and learn.

Rainbow trout & chicken BBQ

A little fishy on a little dishy......
A little fishy on a little dishy...... | Source
Chicken breast in BBQ sauce
Chicken breast in BBQ sauce | Source
Moist and tender... excuse me... eating.....
Moist and tender... excuse me... eating..... | Source

Rainbow trout en papilotte: Vox populi

Cast your vote for Rainbow trout en papilotte

Rainbow trout en papilotte

This recipe can be used for any fish, or any part of any fish. We just happened to have the trout to hand. It would be a bit ambitious to start with a whole salmon since that requires a degree in origami for a start: but I have done it. My suggested flavours are red onion, ginger, thyme and chestnut mushroom. Really, anything goes here. Anyway, this is my receipt. That’s OLD for recipe.

You will need:

One rainbow trout, descaled and gutted. (Your fishmonger will do this for you if you ask. I do it myself, but then I have culinary pretentions.)

2oz. couscous (or thereabouts. If you prefer, substitute quinoa, bulgur wheat or cooked rice, brown or white. Do not use pasta of any description. You can also use cooked lentils.)

Half a red onion per fish. (If you are feeding a multitude, use more: one fish will make a good starter for two, or a nice main for one. If you like fish. Strangely, some people don’t.)

Three good-sized chestnut mushrooms. (More if you like fungi, less if you don’t. You’re the one cooking it. Be cheffy and use exotics, or be retro & use white mushrooms.)

One inch of root ginger. Or more.

Lime juice. (Buy a bottle from the supermarket unless you use lots of limes. A dash of white wine, or cider, can replace this in an emergency. It’s not essential. If you want to impress, substitute thin slices of lime. Wow. Eat your heart out, Corrigan.)

Dried or fresh thyme. (Stripped if fresh. A toothful of stick will ruin the gastronomic experience, thyme stalks do not cook well.)

Salt to season (Unless you’re on a low-salt diet like me. I don’t. The fish is still good.)

A chopping board.

A sharp knife. (for god’s sake buy a quality knife & a knife-sharpener. We’ve moved forwards since honing-stones & steels. A blunt knife is an accident waiting to happen. And you’ll feel so much more in control as the keen blade slices effortlessly through delicate fungi and tough roots. Trust me. Do it. You’ll be pleased you did.)

A spoon if you’re too delicate to use your fingers.

A fork for fluffing the couscous.

A generous quantity of cooking foil.

Are you ready? Let’s go.

Let's Go.....

Rainbow trout
Rainbow trout | Source
Assemble your ingredients
Assemble your ingredients | Source

Preparing the ingredients

Boil a kettle of water. Okay, you can have a cup of tea or coffee if you must, but the water’s mainly for the couscous, bulgur wheat or quinoa. If you’ve opted for the lentils or rice, DO NOT POUR BOILING WATER ON THEM, OKAY?

Place your couscous in a heatproof bowl. It should look quite lonely. (I used a plastic yoghurt pot once & regretted it. I was ages mopping up.) Pour enough water over the grains to cover generously and stir. Now leave it alone, unless you want to increase the quantity. Be careful or you will be eating couscous all week. It swells.

You want the grains to be quite wet but not runny.

Take your fine, sharp knife and slice the onion into thin shreds. Now slice the mushrooms, and reduce the ginger to fine shreds.

Actually I use great big slices. My husband regards ginger as a vegetable, not a condiment. To each his own.

Now address your fish. (“Dear trout….”) If your fishmonger has been diligent, there will be no dark line running internally down the backbone. If he’s been a lazy bugger and left one, sprinkle salt over the line (it’s fish blood actually) and rub gently until it lifts, then rinse your fishy. You don’t want too much salt.

Having prepared your fish, take a length of cooking foil at least three times longer than your fish and at least three times as wide. BE GENEROUS. Better to have too much foil than too little! Fold it in half lengthways (It doesn’t matter which side is ‘out’ the shiny or the dull side.)

Chop, chop, chop

Ready..... | Source
Set....... | Source
Boil! | Source
Chop | Source
All set!
All set!

How long?????

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 20 min
Ready in: 30 min
Yields: Serves two as as starter, one as a main

Trout, Assemble!

Rescue your couscous, it should have cooled off by now. You don’t want to be using it hot, especially if you are preparing the fish ahead of time. Add a bit of salt if you’re not a low-salt maniac & stir well. Spoon a generous quantity onto the middle of the foil and flatten it a bit. Make sure your fish will sit comfortably on it’s new bed with no bits hanging over. Do not settle the dear thing yet.

Artistically arrange a third of your sliced onion, mushrooms and ginger onto the couscous base and add a little thyme. It’s a strong flavour, a tiny pinch will do: you’ll be adding more later.

Now settle the fishy and convince it to retain a similar quantity of onion, mushroom, thyme and ginger inside the body cavity. It may be reluctant, but do not fret. You can shove the stuff on top with the remainder. Season delicately with salt, placing any cheffy slices of lime on the top if you’ve opted to be fancy, then take up the long sides of foil and fold over at least twice: pinch hard to seal. Crunch up one end of the parcel tightly, twisting it up into a handle. You will use this (and it’s twin when you finish) to move your papilotte around the barbeque. Leave the other end open. Pop it carefully into the refrigerator until it’s time to cook.

Make sure you use enough foil!
Make sure you use enough foil! | Source
And scrunch!
And scrunch!
Store coo until ready to cook
Store coo until ready to cook

Ready, steady, cook!

The reason you do not add the final glug of lime juice (especially lime juice) cider or wine now is that the acids in the liquid will start to cook the fish. Yes, it will cook COLD, in the fridge. You don’t want overcooked fish, it’s minging. When you are ready for the off, upend the parcel and add the liquor: now you can seal the final end and you’re ready, steady, BAKE!!!!!! (thank you, Sue or Mel.)

Cook over hot coals for about twenty minutes, smile and serve. Simper gently and remember me when recommending my receipts. Take full credit for the bake. I only advised.

This receipt is practically idiot-proof. The fish will steam gently in the cooking liquor: the onions, mushrooms ginger and thyme will add high notes, but the main flavour is THE FISH. You may find that the bottom layer of couscous will become crusty. Do not fear: it was meant. That layer protects the delicate fish from the fierce heat of the barbeque, and because of that, you can get away with murder. Enough will be fluffy and moist, and anyway this was a receipt for fish, not semolina. And if your barbeque is rained off (I’m English, we’re martyrs to our weather) bug the wrap into a hot oven, about 220 degrees C, for twenty minutes and all will be well. Except for the tennis. Sorry about that, but I don’t have a hotline to the weather gods. I’m a bloody witch, not God. I don’t do weather.

Ingredients list

  • approx 2 oz couscous
  • half red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 -3 chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
  • one inch root ginger, shredded
  • a splash lime juice
  • to taste salt
  • one medium rainbow trout

Serving suggestions

Serve with a mixed salad or fresh bread.

A nice salad
A nice salad
Home-baked bread
Home-baked bread
and a bit of fish.
and a bit of fish.

Barbeque chicken breast

Or, if you’re crass, hen tit in tinfoil.

You know the problems with chicken. If you don’t, then you don’t cook much, do you? Never mind. I can guide you through the minefield. The fact of the matter is, CHICKEN DRIES OUT. The breast is especially prone, and when we are all advised to lose the skin (Why? All the flavour is in the skin!) for the sake of our health, it further complicates the issue: who wants to munch dried hen? Fear not. Listen to me and I will help you overcome this hurdle. Your chook will be moist and toothsome…..

Barbeque chicken

Let's go!!!

You will need:

One chicken breast per person. (You can do this as a starter, but only if you slice the chicken after it’s cooked. That’s a faff. Let your diners cut their own protein. You give them knives, don’t you?)

2oz. couscous per portion. (You may substitute quinoa, bulgur wheat or cooked rice, brown or white. Don’t use pasta, please. You can also use cooked lentils.)

A quarter of a red onion per breast. (That sounds pervy.)

One good-sized chestnut mushroom per. (More if you like fungi, less if you don’t. You’re the one cooking it. Be cheffy and use exotics, or be retro & use white mushrooms.)

One inch of root ginger. Or more.

Chilli to taste. (I use lots. About one medium chilli per portion is a good starting point. If you’re nervous around chilli, halve this.)

Barbeque sauce. (There are lots out there. Or make your own. See other pages.)

Salt and white pepper to season. (There’s enough going on here without complicating it further with freshly milled black pepper.)

Some beer. You may have to steal this.

A chopping board.

A sharp knife. (for god’s sake buy a quality knife & a knife-sharpener. We’ve moved forwards since honing-stones & steels. A blunt knife is an accident waiting to happen. And you’ll feel so much more in control as the keen blade slices effortlessly through delicate fungi and tough roots. Trust me. Do it. You’ll be pleased you did.)

A spoon if you’re too delicate to use your fingers.

A fork for fluffing the couscous.

A generous quantity of cooking foil.

Roll up your sleeves and let’s get cracking.

first catch your bird......


First, hydrate the couscous or whatever other exotic ingredient you’ve chosen. Miss this out if you’re going for cooked rice or lentils.

Boil a kettle and place the couscous in a large bowl. Cover generously with boiling water: stir. That’s it. Leave it. You’ve other things to do. It will hydrate on it’s own without you watching it constantly.

Chop the onions and mushrooms into fairly fine dice.

Finely shred the chilli if using.

Now the chicken. Examine it carefully. If it’s a pre-prepared chicken breast fillet, you may need to do no more, but some chook breasts are, well, larger. They have a bit hanging off, and that’s got a tendon in it. Let’s not go into removing the tendon yet, that’s advanced cookery science. It’s a white wobbly bit that sticks out and you can’t pull it off like the fat which will also be there. That hanging bit looks untidy: cut it away for use later. An omlette springs to mind. My supper, in other words.

Trim off the fat and any raggy bits you don’t like, until you have a smooth, tidy lump which pleases your eye. You shouldn’t have much waste. Wipe the breast down and we can start assembling the dish.

First, a word about the barbeque sauce. All this is, essentially, is brown sugar and vinegar cooked until thick, with some other bits and pieces added. Okay, it’ll keep in the fridge for a week, but it takes time and this isn’t a faffy receipt. You can use ANY BBQ sauce, it’s up to you. I add extra chilli, but that’s just me: I like my chilli.

Trim neatly
Trim neatly


Right. Return to your couscous. Throw in the chopped mushrooms, onions and chilli: stir to distribute evenly. A bit of salt might go well here. I am on a low-salt regimen, so I tend to leave it out: It can be added later, when it’s on the plate. Make the diners work for their living. Make sure the couscous is quite cool before you use it, you don’t want your chook to sit in the warm and breed toxins. (I assume you’re preparing this well in advance of the actual cook. If not, ignore me.)

Tear off a generous length of foil, at least three times longer and wider than the chicken tit, and fold it in half.

Place a dollop of couscous in the middle of the foil and lay the chicken tit on top. It should not overhang the couscous. Add a bit of salt & pepper if you like. Lather it with BBQ sauce (Do not be mean here. The couscous will absorb the excess, and couscous is so bland it needs all the help it can get.) and bring the long edges of the foil together. Fold over at least twice and pinch tightly to seal. The seal is important, you don’t want the parcel to leak. Gather up one end and screw up into a neat little handle: leave the other end open until you are ready to cook. Repeat with all the other tits. Place in the fridge, go away & have a nice cup of tea.

Parcel me!!!

I like it extra hot
I like it extra hot
and sauce
and sauce
time to relax.
time to relax.


Once you are ready to cook the little darlings you will need to add some beer, or lager, or other brewed product. If there are men in the garden drinking, offer to beer them. You might be able to sneak away a part-bottle on the sly. A couple of glugs per parcel is sufficient. Otherwise open a bottle yourself and sacrifice a bit to the cause. Seal the open end of the parcels, toss them on the hot coals for at least 30 minutes and there you are! Who told you barbeques were difficult?

The science and why this receipt is idiot-proof.

Subjecting a delicate meat like chicken to high heat will dry it out. By cooking en papilotte, you steam the flesh: it should not reach a temperature above 100 degrees C and the liquor will ensure the chicken stays moist. You will not need to watch it like a hawk nor time it with a stopwatch: just get on with the jollification, but don’t forget about it entirely. It won’t stand for three-quarters of an hour in a furnace. You may find that the underside of the couscous has dried out. It does. There should be enough left over. If you want couscous you don’t need to barbeque it. It’s the chicken that’s important, not the bedding.

What? Your barbeque is being rained off? No sweat. Slam the parcels in a hot oven at 220 degrees C for 35 -40 minutes and serve. The greatest joy of this receipt is that there’s no washing up and the oven will be clean at the end of it. You won’t need to scrub the barbie either. Just gotta love it.

Feed me back!

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