Grilling Fish Inspired by a Fourth Century BC recipe!

It has become our trademark dish at Kea Artisanal; our guests rave about it, and so we thought we give you Costas’ detailed description. You need to have a fig tree nearby as there is no substitute for the fig leaves which protect the fish but also caramelize over the charcoal fire imparting a wonderful flavor and aroma to the delicate flesh…

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“…the best way to present this fish I mean, then in fig leaves with not too much origano is the way. No cheese, no fancy nonsense. Simply place it with care in the fig leaves and tie them with rush-cord from above. Then put into hot ashes and use your intelligence to work out the time when it will be roasted: don’t let it burn up…”

Archestratus, The Life of Luxury: modern English translation
and commentary by John Wilkins & Shaun Hill (PROSPECT books)

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Inspired by Archestatus’ command on how to cook small tuna, we came up with this way of grilling fish wrapped in fig leaves. Over the years my husband, Costas Moraitis, has perfected the technique, bringing to the table perfectly grilled, juicy and fragrant fish. The following is his description. The fig leaves protect and help the fish cook evenly, imparting a sweet, elusive aroma to the flesh. Unfortunately we have not been able to find a substitute in the event you don’t have a fig tree nearby. Fig leaves do not freeze; they disintegrate as they thaw. But we managed to vacuum-pack them and keep in the refrigerator for four months, so we can grill fish even in the winter.

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Photo Renee Iseson

As anybody who has grilled fish knows, in just a mere 2 minutes perfectly cooked, juicy fish can turn dry and grainy. Grill carefully and check the fish often. The taste of this freshly-grilled fish is sublime, but I also love the simple fish salad I make with the leftovers (see Note).
Costas points out that it is somewhat difficult to grill larger fish wrapped in fig leaves. You will need more than one leaf to start with, and then the flipping can be cumbersome. But if two people work together you should try it, especially if you happen to have a wonderful, freshly caught 2 1/2 – 3 pound white-fleshed fish. In this case a pizza peel instead of a spatula will help. Bear in mind that portions of the large fish may cook faster, while other parts remain raw. Check often, and use more leaves to wrap the thinner parts, closer to the tail that cook faster.

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Charcoal-Grilled Whole Fish, Wrapped in Fig-Leaves

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