During the two weeks we spent in Italy, France and Ireland I quickly discovered that it was almost impossible to eat badly while away. We even found that Italy caters exceptionally well to both gluten and dairy intolerances, as does Ireland. Now that we are back, I am keen to share this John Dory recipe with you. It is really simple and one of the most popular ways to serve fish in the Mediterranean.
The beauty of taking a European holiday in August is the abundance of fresh produce that sits right in that sweet spot of Indian summer, the changing of seasons. Ripe stone fruit, currants with their tart twang I remember fondly from my childhood days, plump ox heart tomatoes lining every grocer’s stall and, of course, just coming into season wild-foraged mushrooms: girolles, chanterelles and ceps, especially popular in France.
During the two weeks we spent in Rome, Venice and the south of France I quickly discovered that it was almost impossible to eat badly – locally wild-caught fish, seafood and freshly prepared salads and vegetables featured heavily on menus.
The Mediterranean style of eating suited me well. Sea bass and John Dory prepared in various ways as well as ripe ox heart tomato salads became my daily nourishment of choice. First-pressing olive oil flowed freely. And it was hot, temperatures often edging on 40C, so we drank plenty of water and made sure to enjoy lemon sorbet in the shade from time to time.
Surprisingly, perhaps, we also found that there were plenty of gluten-free restaurants in Italy – some recommended by Portrait Roma, our wonderful hotel, others found by chance and quite affordable. On couple of occasions we dined with Matt’s parents and it was great to see him enjoy gluten-free pizza here and pasta here. Breads in France came in the form of fermented sourdough, which sits better on the gut and plenty of gluten-free options were also available in most places. And the seafood story continued – finally I got to like Sardines!
And it seems Ireland is just as allergy-aware as many Australian places, most offering a gluten-free or Coeliac option on menus. They are blessed with beautiful free-range beef and lamb, too. I must admit that while I did not eat much meat while we were away I could not say no to the traditional dish of Irish Cabbage and Bacon at Timmy Mac’s before we left the green island. It was delightful, made with locally reared sustainable produce and went well with my first ever pint of Guinness. It’s big in Ireland!
My only regret was that I did not get to have my own kitchen. It was a momentary feeling though as I soon realised that the benefit of eating out was that we got to try local cuisines and had extra time for sightseeing.
However, now that we are back home I am keen to share this recipe with you. It is really simple and one of the most popular ways to serve fish in the Mediterranean.
Baked John Dory with Lemon Caper Dressing
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus 2-3 extra to serve
- 2 John Dory fillets with skin on
- 2 teaspoons capers in brine
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- freshly ground black pepper
- handful per serve watercress or other salad greens
- Grease an oven-proof dish or skillet with olive oil and place fish, skin side down, on top. Bake for 10 minutes (you will need to a little longer for thicker fillets).
- Remove from oven and transfer to serving plates. Add extra olive oil, lemon juice and capers to the pan and mix well. Drizzle over the fish and season with pepper.
- Serve with a mixed green salad or watercress.