Friday, January 16, 2009

cooking with fire

What is it about barbecues that is associated with the domain of men? I’ve never lived with a barbecuing fanatic before, which could be why I have got to this age of life before a gas fired beauty has come into my life. The SE loves the new barbie but, at least is theory, is happy to hand over the reigns at any time. So last night was my turn to be in charge of the new, backyard, basic model, grilling machine.

The most obvious place to start was a whole fish and one of those grill cages made to contain such a beast. The sultry weather of late makes me think of Asian flavours, especially as there was a bunch of coriander in the fridge in need of using. While cruising the net I found this great guide in Taste on how to barbecue whole fish and was thrilled to find they’d included a version using the flavours I had imagined. I’ve altered the method and a few of the ingredients from the original recipe.

Barbecued whole fish with coriander and fish sauce

First catch your fish, or visit your fishmonger. Our fish grill comfortably accommodated a 1.4 kg red snapper. Get the good people at the fish shop to clean, gut and de-scale the creature before taking it home. Look for a 1-2 kg fish with firm flesh; snapper is always a winner in this house.

1-2 kg whole fish
Vegetable oil
Fresh coriander
Fresh Vietnamese mint
1-2 red chillies
1-2 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup lime juice
1 – 1.5 tabs fish sauce
2 tsp palm sugar
1-2 tsp roasted sesame oil (optional)

Take your fish, pat it dry inside and out with paper towels. Make slashes through the thickest part of the flesh, to help both the heat and flavour penetrate.

Take a handful of coriander/cilantro (leaves and stalks) and another of Vietnamese mint (or regular mint), 1 sliced chilli and a clove of garlic thinly sliced and stuff the belly of the fish.

Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar and sesame oil in the bowl. Play with the quantities til you have a favourable balance of salt, acid and sweetness. I like a dash of sesame oil these days to add a touch of smoky depth to the flavour. Using some extra herbs (coriander, mint, chilli and garlic if you like) chop finely and add to your marinade and combine well. Use some of the marinade to brush the fish on both sides, pushing the sauce into the slashes as well. There will be a lot of marinade left over, this is to pour on the fish once it is cooked. If you wish you can leave the fish, covered in a pan or on a board, for 10-20 minutes to let it soak up a little of the marinade. As it is more a gentle painting of sauce, rather than a bath, the timing doesn’t matter too much.

Take a fish grill gadget and brush or rub it with some vegetable oil to stop the fish from sticking. Gently place the fish in the grill and close it.

Fire up the open grill side of the barbecue (rather than the flat plate). Give it five minutes to warm up before adding the fish. For this sized fish I cooked each side for 8 minutes on moderate heat, then a final 2 minutes on high.

When cooked, carefully remove the fish from the grill and slip onto a serving plate. Pour the rest of the marinade over the fish immediately.

To Serve

I made a double quantity of marinade and used it as a dressing for a simple noodle salad with rice noodles, toasted cashews, cucumber and generous handfuls of coriander and Vietnamese mint.

Arrange the noodle salad on the plate, then top with chunks of fish. Perfect!

I also grilled some eggplant straight from the garden to serve with the meal.

The fish was perfect. The skin was crunchy, salty and beautifully grilled. The noodle salad reinforced the subtle flavours of the fish and solicited four “This is f**king fantastic” gasps from the SE.

A winner!

One side cooked, the eggplants doing their bit beside it

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Blogger Ran said...

i havent got one of thos fish holders so i usually use foil. i like the idea of crispy skin though. this looks beatuiful

11:32 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Ran I was going to cook it in Al Foil but when I showed the SE what I was thinking of cooking he went on a late afternoon hunt for a grill thingie. We were trying to get a flat, multipurpose one but despite checking out lots of camping supplies stores couldn't find anything suitable. So in the end it was this fishy caged thing, $22 from the catering supply store in Elizabeth St, near Vic Market. Definitely a good investment - smoky flavour and crisp skin - double yum :)

12:31 pm  

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