Saturday, 27 August 2011

Roasted Tilapia with Smoky Bacon and Leeks


It's hard, as an adult, to get out of your comfort zone. Once you grow up and find that you are no longer subjected to competitive sport or double geography, the giddy feeling of freedom can tempt you into complacency. You can very easily settle into a life where you avoid anything that is challenging or uncomfortable. Don't like speaking in public? Just refuse to do it! Hate doing mental maths on the spot? Carry a calculator! Once you've got a driving licence, your own flat and your own rules, there's nothing to stop you making your life exactly the way you like it. And then keeping it that way.

Except that life doesn't seem to work like that. Even if you think you're safe, even if you're happy and comfortable and secure, something can swing out of nowhere and slap you upside your head. Before you know it, your comfort zone is a thing of the past, and you don't know how to cope. When double netball was a weekly horror, we all developed techniques to get through it. As pampered, pusillanimous adults, we lose that resilience.

When people are told to try things outside their comfort zone, it can be hard to know what to recommend. You could try something massive, like moving abroad, or something dangerous, like paragliding. But there's normally a reason why neither of these is in your comfort zone already - like you're over 70, or afraid of heights. For some people, even combing their hair the other way or wearing an unaccustomed colour can seem daunting.

In the Dine at Mine household, we're starting small. With all the Fearnley-Whittingstall fish propaganda drummed into my skull, I now feel massive guilt at buying anything like cod, salmon or tuna and have started looking for odd, unusual fish with unpronouncable names. This week, it's tilapia. TiLAPia? TilapIA? No idea. Anyway, non-cod-or-haddock white fish with impeccable marine credentials which I've never tried before.There's a first time for everything.

We used a recipe from Jamie At Home and like almost everything he does, it was quick, easy, healthy and delicious. The smoky bacon, soft leeks and delicate fish were all brought together with herbs and lemon to make something that tasted so much more than the sum of its parts. Tangy, aromatic, succulent and savoury, this was a perfect introduction to tilapia and we will definitely do it again. I love Jamie. And he's an example of someone who keeps trying things outside his comfort zone - not just oddly-named food, but saving a generation of children, changing the world, that sort of thing. Bet he couldn't cope with paragliding though. We've all got our limits.

Roasted Tilapia with Smoky Bacon and Leeks
From Jamie At Home, slightly adapted 
Serves 2

- two boneless fillets of white fish (we used tilapia but you could also try pollock or (gasp!) cod)
- four rashers of smoked bacon
- two big leeks, quartered lengthways, or eight baby leeks
- a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
- a sprig of thyme
- a bay leaf
- half a lemon
- olive oil, salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C, and boil or steam the leeks for about 5 minutes before setting aside to steam dry. While the leeks are cooking, make the marinade by crushing (in a pestle and mortar) or chopping together the leaves from one of the sprigs of rosemary, the thyme and the bay leaf. Mix with a pinch of salt and pepper, a glug of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Once you've squeezed out the juice, cut the squeezed out lemon half into slices.

Combine the leeks, fish, two sprigs of fresh rosemary and lemon slices In a big ovenproof dish, and pour the marinade over the whole lot. Toss around carefully with your hands until everything's coated, arranging so that the fish is on top. Drape two slices of bacon over each piece of fish and bake the whole lot for 15 minutes or until the bacon is crispy and the fish is flaky. Don't miss out on the juices at the bottom of the dish!

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