Roasted slashed fish with aromatic paste

Roasted slashed fish with aromatic paste

By
From
River Cottage Every Day
Serves
2-3
Photographer
Simon Wheeler

This is a simple but impressive way of cooking a whole fish. Slashing the flesh lets the pungent flavourings penetrate, and also ensures that thick-bodied fish cook quickly and evenly. There’s no end to the potential variations for the paste – see below for a couple of suggestions. For bigger fish, to feed more people, increase the quantities for the paste and extend the cooking time.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 bream, bass, grey mullet or gurnard, gutted and descaled
a few bay leaves
1 tablespoon sunflower or rapeseed oil

For the aromatic paste:

Quantity Ingredient
2-3cm piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
2 fat garlic cloves, finely grated
1/2-1 small, hot red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped, (optional)
1 small shallot, grated
1 star anise, pounded with a pestle and mortar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. First, make the paste: combine the ginger, garlic, chilli, shallot and star anise. Season with salt and pepper, then add just enough soy sauce to make a thick paste.
  2. Lay the fish on a well-oiled baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 slashes, 1–2cm deep, in the thickest part of the fish, being careful not to go through to the bone. Turn and repeat on the other side. Using your fingers, rub the aromatic paste into the slashes, smearing the rest inside the cavity and over the top of the fish.
  3. Tuck bay leaves into the slashes and cavity. Trickle a little oil over the fish, place in an oven preheated to 190°C and roast for 20–25 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through. Check by pushing a fine-bladed knife into the thickest part, between 2 slashes: the flesh should be opaque and just coming away from the backbone.
  4. Bring the fish to the table in its roasting dish and ease large chunks of the flesh away from the bones with a knife and fork. Turn the fish over and remove the remaining flesh, then spoon any aromatic pan juices on to each portion. Serve with plain rice or noodles, and stir fried greens flavoured with a little ginger, garlic and soy.

Variations

  • Herby paste

    Mix 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon each of finely chopped thyme and rosemary, 1 finely chopped garlic clove and the grated zest of ½ lemon with 1–2 tablespoons of rapeseed or olive oil to make a thick paste. Season with salt and pepper. Proceed as above.

    Spicy paste

    Heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil in a frying pan and fry 1 teaspoon of brown mustard seeds briefly until they start to pop. Add a finely chopped large shallot and cook until soft. Add a finely chopped garlic clove and a grated 2cm piece of fresh ginger, then take off the heat. Grind ½ teaspoon each of coriander and cumin seeds with a pinch of fennel seeds and a pinch of dried chilli flakes and stir into the shallot mix with ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric and some salt and pepper, adding more oil, if necessary, to make a thick paste. Proceed as above.
Tags:
River Cottage
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
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