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PLANK FISH by Gill Meller

SEAWEED PLANKED FISH

This traditional Scandinavian way of cookingfish - nailing it to a plank and settling it in the embers of a fire so it begins to smoulder - gives it an incredible flavour. It also looks extremelyimpressive: great for a party!

The technique is particularly suited to an open fire such as a campfire but it can also be done on a barbecue.As well as a hammer and nails, you’ll need a decent piece of untreated hardwood about 50 x 30 x 5 cm. Cedar is traditional but oak, beech and alder all work well.

INGREDIENTS

1 large fillet of hake or pollock,
about 800g–1kg

A large handful or two of foraged shoreline seaweed, rinsed to remove any sand
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare your fire

To cook the fish, the fireneeds to be at the stage of hot embers and gently smoking wood. The odd flame is also fine.While you wait for it to reach this point, soak your plank in water to dampen it and preventit catching fire while you cook.

Place the soaked plank on the ground and arrange the seaweed down the middle. Lay the fish, skin side down, on top of the seaweed, which will help to keep the fish moist while it cooks, as well as seasoning it. Season the flesh side of the fish with salt and pepper.Secure thefish fillet in place with 6 or 7 nails,hammeringthem through the fish and seaweed into the plank at intervals along the length of the fish.

Once the fire is ready, clear a small semi-circular area by pushing away the burning wooddownwind of the hottest and flamiest part of the fire. This way any breeze will carry heat and smoke towards the fish, not away from it.

Use a log to carefully prop the plank up in thecleared area of the fire. The fish should be on the side facing the fire, with the thickest part of the fish fillet nearest the ground and theburning embers.

Leave to cook gently for about 20-25 minutes,or until the fish is just cooked through. Thebase of the plank may start to smoulder; thisis fine, but if it actually catches fire, extinguish the flames with a splash of water. You canup-end the plank once or twice to ensure even cooking, if needed.

Once the fish is cooked, remove the plank from the fire. Douse the base of the plank with wa- ter if necessary then place in the middle of the table. Let everyone dig in straight away: lemon wedges, good bread and mayonnaise are all you need alongside.