How many epic birthday parties did you have as a child? They were the event of the year with endless cake, balloons, magicians, games and most importantly presents. Did your parents also go overboard with the motto: the more the merrier? Not only was the entire class usually invited, but also family friends with children of a similar age. Now calculate how many presents and cake that results in? A LOT! Aside from the obligatory goody bags, one of the best parts of these parties were the games: musical chairs, water balloons, the knife and fork chocolate game (secretly I actually want to play this again… maybe tipsy…. that might increase the entertainment factor), hopscotch, hide and seek, jump rope, capture the flag and pass the parcel. The latter was great. Despite the small probability of actually having the parcel in your hands when only one layer of wrapping paper was left between you and the prize, adrenalin was still pumping every time it was your turn to unwrap.
Unwrapping parcels, presents and posted packages remains exciting to this day, even if you think you know what to find inside. I’m sure you have even all wrapped up a present for yourself and placed it under the Christmas tree at least once in your life…. or maybe that’s just my brother. But it proves the point. Things in parcels are exciting. So why not serve food in parcels as well? Not only is it a great way to develop the flavour while cooking, but it also almost always impresses the guests. Here is my latest attempt:
Salmon, Cranberry and Couscous Parcels with Caramelised Onions
For the couscous
65g dried cranberries
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground allspice
30g unsalted butter, diced
60g pine nuts, toasted
a small handful of basil, chopped
a small handful of mint, chopped
For the salmon
4 salmon filets, 150g each, seasoned
1 orange, zested and juiced
30g butter, diced
For the cranberry sauce
6tbsp cranberry sauce
1/2 orange, zested and juiced
For the onions
500g onions, quartered
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1.5dl vegetable stock
0.5 tsp cayenne pepper
0.5 tsp cinnamon
0.5 tsp paprika
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan). Place the couscous, spices and cranberries in a bowl and dot with butter. Pour 2400ml of boiling water over your couscous and cover with cling film immediately. Let it soak for 5-6 mins.
- Fluff the couscous with a fork, mix in the herbs and pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper.
- Tear 4 equal sized sheets (30x30cm) of baking paper, these are going to make your parcels.
- Divide the couscous between the sheets creating mounds in the center.
- Dot with the second measurement of diced butter and top each with a salmon filet. Scatter the orange zest over the salmon and drizzle a little orange juice over each piece.
- Tie the parcels closed with some string. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets.
- For the cranberry sauce, mix the zest, juice and sauce together. Set aside until needed.
- And now for the final part, the onions. Soak your raisins in hot water.
- In a medium sized pan, heat the olive oil and butter. Add the sugar and caramelise.
- Once caramelised, add your onions, coat with the caramel and cook until light brown. Drain the soaked raisins.
- Add your spices, stock and raisins to the onions. Season with salt. Cook, uncovered, for about 5 more minutes. Done!
- Your parcels and your onions should finish around about the same time. Serve your parcel with the cranberry sauce and onions on the side. Nom!
One two three four – SCORE
[Numerical ratings are out of four, where four is best/healthiest/hardest.]
Taste: 3.9… honestly restaurant worthy (the picture and wrinkles really don’t do this dish justice…maybe I’ll rub some anti-aging cream into the salmon next time…)
Difficulty: 2, quite simple
Cost: Salmon, pine nuts and cranberries can make it quite costly.
P.S. The onions are a great side for any middle-eastern dish.