Every so often, I wake up with a resolve to have a scanty eating day or week… a detox, spa day, regime – namely the best spin I can put on restricting my diet after a bit too much indulgence. The problem is that whenever I decide to lighten up on food, all I can think about is food! I have the most robust appetite in my mind and nothing fuels it quite like a bit of abstinence. One day a friend said to me that when she is trying to eat lighter, she thinks about all the things she can eat, rather than the ones she plans to avoid. So I tried that, and guess what? It works. (Sometimes.) So today I’m thinking about steamed fish.
Steamed fish is just plain delicious, spa cuisine or not. Add some spice and fragrant herbs and it is even an indulgence, for body and mind. As for the coconut rice – well that’s just balance isn’t it?
Recently I photographed a few features for Eat Me Magazine. One of the pieces was a recipe feature for snapper steamed in banana leaves with a heady, exotic paste of spices, nuts and herbs. Banana leaves are not always readily available in England but I found some lovely fresh banana leaves in an Oriental supermarket in Oxford – a delightful find among the dreaming spires and honey stone walls. But if you are not so lucky, it is easy enough to steam fish in parchment paper or just in a steamer. More on recipes in a moment.
As you can see, the idea is to make the spice paste, and wrap it together with the fish filet in a leaf and tie with string to secure. Then you steam the fish parcels in the bamboo steamer. Later when you unwrap the leaves it is with the anticipation and delight of opening a yummy present!
So to recipes. I am going to be deliberately vague here because there is so much latitude in this type of cooking. And you can vary things depending on what flavours you like best and what you have available. For an exact recipe, take a look at Issue 5 of Eat Me magazine or email me (see contact page) for a link.
For the steamed fish, take a couple of fresh white fish fillets. Snapper, halibut, or even tilapia will all work well. Lay each fillet out on a generous sheet of parchment or in a good size piece of banana leaf. Cover the fish with a few spoonfuls of the seasoning paste. For the paste, mash together in a mortar or a mini chopper a clove of garlic, a shallot, the juice of a lime, a cube of ginger, a few coriander seeds, a half teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of lemongrass, perhaps a couple of tablespoons of peanuts or macadamia nuts, a tiny spoon of shrimp paste, a small fresh chilli pepper…just choose or omit the ingredients as you wish. Sometimes, I just use a quick squeeze of lime, and little grating of ginger or chilli. Wrap the fish up into a parcel and place in a steamer basket over simmering water. Steam for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish fillets.
A delicious bowl of rice is a wonderful accompaniment to this fish. You can prepare some simple plain steamed rice, white or brown as you desire. Or perhaps some coconut rice made like this. Take one cup of jasmine rice, or sticky type rice. Add two cups of coconut milk, or half coconut milk/half water if you want it a little lighter. Add a half teaspoon of salt. Cover and bring quickly to a boil then immediately turn the heat down to as low as possible. Allow to rice to gently steam over that very low heat for about 15 minutes, covered all the while. Turn off the heat, and when you are ready to serve garnish with a few coriander (cilantro) leaves and chopped cashew nuts if you like.
Has Spring arrived with a great busy rush for you? It seems to me that the last month or so has been so full, with weddings and school holidays, and bright sunny days all in addition. This is such a wonderful time of year in England. There is so much greenery and life in all the countryside and lanes. The village cricket team is all geared up for the opening match of the season and the pitch is rolled and ready too. And I know it will be my turn to make the cricket teas very soon – perhaps I will post on village cricket teas, what do you think?
Thanks for visiting. More soon.