Foil-baked fish fillets with fennel, ginger and chilli

Foil-baked fish fillets with fennel, ginger and chilli

River Cottage Every Day
Simon Wheeler

Baking fish scrunched up in a foil parcel with a handful of aromatics is an easy and delicious option. Fillets of gurnard, lemon sole, bream, mullet and line-caught bass all respond well to this treatment, as well as thick fillets of pollack. And it’s not just fillets that benefit from the foil parcel approach. In fact, this is one of my favourite ways to cook small-to-medium whole fish (see variation).


Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons sunflower or groundnut oil
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, quartered and sliced fairly finely, (2-3mm)
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 teaspoon grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
2 large fish fillets, (150-200g)
or 4 small fish fillets, (80-120g)
soy sauce
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat half the oil in a pan, add the fennel and cook gently for a few minutes, until it starts to soften. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for a few minutes more, so everything starts to soften and release its flavour. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Take 2 pieces of strong kitchen foil, roughly 25cm square, and oil them well with the remaining oil. Pile the fennel mixture in a little mound in the middle of each one. Season the fish fillets generously and curl them around the fennel mixture – either 2 small fillets or one large per parcel. Sprinkle a little soy sauce and a good grinding of black pepper over each pile, then bring up the sides of the foil and scrunch them together tightly to form well-sealed but baggy parcels.
  3. Place the parcels on a baking tray, transfer to an oven preheated to 190°C and bake for 15 minutes. Open up the steaming, fragrant parcels and pile the contents, including all the lovely juices, on to 2 warm plates. Serve with noodles, mash or rice and some wilted greens, such as spinach, pak choi or choi sum.


  • Whole fish baked in foil

    Almost any small-to-medium fish will do, including trout, bream, bass, gurnard, large mackerel or flat fish such as plaice, lemon sole or megrim. You need a one- or two-person-sized fish, between 500g and 1kg. Get your fishmonger to gut and clean it for you.

    Lay the fish on the well-oiled foil. Put a few bay leaves and lemon slices in the cavity and some more under the fish. Add extra herbs – parsley, fennel and/or thyme – if you like. Dot the fish with butter. Bring up the sides of the foil a little and pour in about half a glass of white wine and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season the fish generously. Scrunch the foil together to form a tightly sealed but baggy parcel. Bake at 190°C. Allow 15–20 minutes for small flat fish; 20–25 minutes for 500–750g fish; 30–35 minutes for 750g–1kg fish.
River Cottage
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
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