Barbecued tandoori-style sea bream

Barbecued tandoori-style sea bream

I Love India
Martin Poole

Tandoori fish is always a treat; the gentle tandoori flavour and the carom seeds here work so well with fish. I cook this on the barbecue in those hinged grills for whole fish. The result is smoky, tangy and lightly spicy. I use Kashmiri chilli powder as it has a mild heat but a vibrant colour, which somehow whets the appetite when you are eating tandoori-style dishes. These are deceptively easy to make once you are confident with a barbecue. You can also make this in the oven: I force a couple of skewers along the length of the body and place them on the edges of the baking tray so that the fish is cooked suspended, as in a proper tandoori oven. You can also make little fish tikkas with this recipe, using good firm fish pieces, under a hot grill. Serve with Tangy Herb Chutney and a crunchy salad.


Quantity Ingredient

For the fish

Quantity Ingredient
2 whole sea bream, or snapper, cleaned, gutted, scaled and fins removed by the fishmonger
a few squeezes lemon juice, plus lemon wedges, to serve, or lime wedges
a little vegetable oil
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, to baste
paprika, (optional)
A few good pinches chaat masala
coriander, to serve

For the marinade

Quantity Ingredient
4 large garlic cloves
10g roughly chopped root ginger, (peeled weight)
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons kashmiri chilli powder, or paprika for colour and chilli powder for heat
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
150g plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon carom seeds
1 rounded tablespoon chickpea flour


  1. Using a sharp knife, score each fish 4 times on each side through the skin, about 5mm into the flesh. Squeeze over some lemon juice and sprinkle a little salt inside and out, then set aside for 10–15 minutes.
  2. Blend together all the ingredients for the marinade except the carom seeds and chickpea flour. I often add a little extra paprika for a good red colour. Taste and adjust the seasoning; at this stage it should taste a bit too salty and spicy, and that’s fine. Add the carom seeds and chickpea flour.
  3. Smear the marinade thickly over both sides of each fish and into the slits. Leave to marinate for 45–60 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the barbecue to a medium-high flame. I like to use a hinged fish rack in which I put the fish, but be careful that it doesn’t flatten it too much. (You can also use 2 metal skewers per fish.) Oil the grill rack and the fish rack.
  5. Place the fish on the heat and cook for 6–8 minutes on the first side, or until the underside is a lovely golden colour with some areas of charring. If the coals are too hot, rake them away slightly. Turn the fish and cook the underside in the same way. If using skewers, the fish might stick a little, so be careful before turning. The fish is done when golden on both sides; to check if it is done on the inside, you can use a thermometer which should read 60°C when poked into the thickest part of the fish.
  6. Baste both sides with the melted butter as it cooks and chars, adding paprika to the butter for a good colour, if you want. Sprinkle with chaat masala and serve with lemon or lime wedges and coriander.
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