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In the west, traditional parcels are made of parchment paper, however today greaseproof paper, aluminium foil and even special “roasting bags" are frequently used. Depending on the recipe other carriers can also be used such as banana leaves and corn husks. It should be noted that the wrapping is not edible and is merely there to protect the food during the cooking process, sealing in juices and flavour.
Flat parcels using parchment paper or greaseproof paper – suitable for steaming and baking. The traditional shape is a half heart where the edges are crimped or decoratively pleated. Perfect for dinner parties, they can be made into any shape so long as they are large enough to encase the food with plenty of room for expansion.
Moneybag parcels tied with string using parchment paper or greaseproof - suitable for steaming and baking. Best reserved for smaller amounts of food such as vegetables, starters or pates.
Aluminium Foil – best for baking and barbecues. Although paper parcels can be cut and folded to look really fancy, don’t overlook aluminium foil which is not only much easier to handle and shape but can be made into much larger parcels if necessary. It is also an absolute must when it comes to bbqs as it won’t burn and can be used for endless ingredients helping to make your barbecues unusual and special.
Banana leaves - suitable for steaming, baking, boiling and barbecues.
Corn husks - suitable for steaming, baking, boiling and barbecues.
Although we have come across more unusual methods such as little sealed ackages being deep fried, the three most popular methods are steaming, baking and barbecuing.
Steaming requires no special equipment, other than a roll of parchment paper or foil however attention must be given to ensure the parcels are sealed very well to ensure they don’t undo during cooking. Choose parchment, greaseproof or banana/corn husks when steaming foods with a high acidic content such as vinegar, to avoid a chemical reaction with aluminium.
Baking also doesn't require any special equipment although you are strongly advised to always place parcels on a baking tray to prevent spillages.
Barbecuing is perfect for aluminium foil parcels. Almost anything can be cooked in foil so this method is ideal as it means you can cook ingredients on the bbq which might otherwise be difficult. Place foil parcels joins or folds upwards, either on the grill or directly amidst the coals depending on the recipe.
Practically any ingredient can be cooked in parcels, however large pieces of food which would take much longer than 30 minutes to cook such as chicken joints are best avoided. Items which work very well include:-
Chicken – boneless breast cut into slices up to 5cm/2-inches thick or small cubes
Beef / Lamb - boneless cut into slices about 2.5cm/1-inch thick or small cubes
Pork - boneless cut into slices about 2.5cm/1-inch thick or small cubes
Fish and seafood – fillets, cutlets, steaks, small whole fish, prawns, mussels, clams, squid pieces. All of these are generally added raw to the parcels unless otherwise stated in the recipe.
Vegetables – Everything from potatoes to peas either as part of a main course or as accompaniments. Care should be taken as to the cutting and preparation. In general, dense items such as potatoes should be very thinly sliced but delicate vegetables such as mangetout can be left whole.
Pasta and Noodles – all types of pasta can be added to the parcels and it as a very good choice when wanting to serve a main course dish such as seafood with pasta. However, it must be cooked before adding to the parcel. Items like spaghetti should be cooked to the al dente stage (so it has a slight bite) but items such
Fruit – sliced, chopped or whole depending on the fruit
As mentioned above, the key to well cooked en papillote food is to have a certain amount if moisture in the parcel before it is sealed. Many veggies and fruit can cope with very little additional moisture unless extra flavour or a “sauce” is required. But most fish, chicken and meat dishes can do with a little added moisture. Depending on the recipe good options include the following however think about how much you add as surprisingly little will create enough steam without making the end result too soggy:-
Alcohol such as vermouth, wine, brandy, rum etc.
Other ready made up sauces
“Watery” vegetables such as courgettes or pumpkin
Sliced lemons or limes
Seasonings and Flavourings
It doesn’t matter how beautiful it looks, if it’s not properly seasoned and tasty then there’s no point. Salt and pepper goes a long way in most savoury dishes but use whatever seasonings you would use in other recipes. Below are just a few ideas for seasoning your en papillote recipes
Asian – Ginger, soy sauce, chillies, coriander, spring onion, fish sauce
Mediteranean - Lemon, olives, garlic, basil, oregano, onions
Flavoured Butters e.g. herb, chilli, garlic – really great for a simple solution on fish, chicken and vegetables.
It is very important to make the parcel large enough to accommodate all the ingredients with plenty of space to spare so the parcel can be sealed well folding joins over at least twice, plus space left for the parcel to expand with steam during cooking. Bellow is a step by step guide as to how to prepare the food, cut, fill and seal the papillote parcel.
1. Prepare all the food before cutting the paper or foil so you have a good idea how large to cut the papillote. Take care to cut foods in suitable sizes e.g. thinly slice or cut dense foods such as potatoes and carrots especially when combining these with less dense food such as fish, to ensure all the foods cook completely during the cooking time.
2. Fold the paper/foil in half then cut out the shape you want.
3. Open the parcel out and lightly butter or oil one half to ensure the contents won't stick during cooking.
4. Assemble the ingredients over the buttered/oiled part making sure you leave a good border all the way around - around 5cm/2-inches depending on the overall size - so you can fold or crimp the edges over twice to get a good seal.
5. Add any moisture (wine, stock, lemon juice etc., and seasonings then seal the parcel well before cooking.
6. Fold the other half over, line up the edges then, starting at the wider part, begin folding the paper over itself. As you progress around the paper, you'll end with a pointy bit which can just be twisted and folded over/under.
Don't forget, papillote parcels can be any shape or size whether made from parchment or foil, but care should be taken when sealing the parcel. In particular, when steaming, it is a good idea to place the folds facing downward so they don't come undone during steaming.
Parchment paper can safely be used in an oven at temperatures up
to 220C, 425F, Gas mark 7 (Hot)
Aluminium foil can safely be used at high oven and barbecue
temperatures and is resistant to humidity and boiling
· Prepare all the food to be cooked before you start cutting or assembling the parcels and lightly butter or oil one side of the inside of the parcel if necessary to prevent the food sticking
· Take care to cut foods in suitable sizes so all the ingredients cook through in the allotted time. For example, thinly slice dense foods such as potatoes, swede and carrots, especially when cooking with less dense food such as fish
· Don’t forget to add seasonings and a little moisture if necessary before sealing the parcels as steam needs to be generated during the cooking period. As little as 1 tablespoon will suffice in most recipes
· Always leave plenty of space in the parcels so they can puff up and cook evenly. The parcel will slightly brown in the oven when the dish is nearly done
When steaming, you can place any fold or join downwards to prevent
it from coming undone but make sure it’s at least triple turned to ensure
nothing can escape from it
· When baking, place all parcels on a baking tray and keep the joins/pleats uppermost but make sure they are well folded as the parcels will puff up during cooking
· When barbecuing, make sure you use foil not paper and triple turn all folds. Place the parcels on the outer edges of the coals or on the grill
· Julienne vegetables look stunning and can add aromatic flavours which fill the air with exotic aromas once the parcels are cut open. Fennel, ginger, carrots, chillies, peppers and celery look great.
Below is a selection of en Papillote recipes by Recipes4us, the majority of which Serves 4 and are ready to eat in under 30 mins
En papillote starter recipes ( appetizer recipes in parcels)
En papillote main course recipes ( entrée recipes in parcels)
Fish, Pasta and Vegetable
Oriental Salmon vegetable and noodle parcels HT MC 35 mins New ! Oct 2014
Poultry and Meat
En papillote side recipes ( accompaniment recipes in parcels)
En papillote dessert recipes
Barbecued Grapefruit Veg HT BBQ DP 25mins Can also be cooked in the oven
Barbecued Oranges Veg HT BBQ DP 25mins Can also be cooked in the oven
BBQ Pear and Blueberry Parcels Veg HT BBQ DP 30mins Can also be cooked in the oven
Barbecued Stuffed Apples Veg HT BBQ DP 40mins Can also be cooked in the oven