This is a wonderful dish of vaguely Vietnamese origins, where it is more commonly served with dill than coriander (cilantro). Both work well in my opinion, or use a mixture of the two herbs.
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons soft light brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon ground turmeric
4 x 125 g (4 oz) fresh fillets of hake, cod or monkfish
2 tablespoons groundnut (peanut) oil
2 large banana shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 small red chilli, sliced
1/2 garlic clove, finely grated
150 g (5 oz) cucumber, peeled (if you prefer), and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cold water
large handful of coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
30 g (1 oz) toasted peanuts (see toasted nuts method below), roughly chopped
cooked rice or rice noodles
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the fish sauce, ginger, sugar and turmeric with a good grind of black pepper. Add the fish fillets and turn to coat them in the marinade, then set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine all the chilli-lime cucumber ingredients. Set aside.
Heat a large non-stick sauté or frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, the shallots and a small pinch of salt. Cook for 3–4 minutes until the shallots start to soften, then add the garlic. Fry for another 3–4 minutes. Scrape out of the pan into a bowl and set aside.
Return the pan to a medium heat with the remaining oil. Add the fish and fry for 3 minutes on each side. Return the shallots and garlic to the pan and add a spoonful of the chilli-lime liquor from the cucumber.
Lift the cucumber from the chilli-lime dressing and divide it among plates, topping it with the fish and shallots. Scatter with the coriander and chopped toasted peanuts and spoon over a little more of the chilli-lime liquor. Serve with rice or rice noodles and lime wedges, and the remaining chilli-lime dressing for spooning over.
TOASTED NUTS + SEEDS
I use toasted nuts and seeds a lot in cooking, so thought it would be wise to give some guidelines on how best to do this. Firstly, I can’t count the number of times I’ve burnt nuts. Because of their high fat content, they turn from a lovely shade of nutty golden to blackened and bitter in a matter of minutes. So try not to get distracted while you’re in the process, and do trust your sense of smell… it’s a very good indicator as to when they’re done. (The same, incidentally, goes for most baking – if you can smell it, it’s ready!)
Generally, I prefer to roast nuts and seeds in the oven. Their uneven shapes mean you get uneven results with dry-frying, whereas roasting gives a good all-round colour. Preheat a fan oven to 160˚C (320˚F/gas 4), and check them after 6 minutes. Different nuts in different ovens will take shorter or longer. Sesame seeds are the one anomaly that I prefer to toast in a dry frying pan (skillet), as they need to be tossed regularly during the toasting process.
Recipe excerpted with permission from California: Living + Eating by Eleanor Maidment, published by Hardie Grant Books May 2019.
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