Monday, March 12, 2007

'Fish' and 'Chips': Asian flavours

Spent too much time working at the bookshop this past week. Too much time dealing with the general public, cranky and ungrateful buggers that they are. “I’d love to work in a bookshop. You must get to sit around reading all day”, they say. Never, not even once in my fifteen years of flogging books in various full time roles have I ever been able to stop for even a millisecond to actually read a book on the shop floor. Obviously my recent freedom from such duties, resulting in only one blissfully quiet day per week there now, is about all I (and the public) can take.

So by the time Friday came around, I was ready to cook something comforting.

If the pages of this blog are to represent the sort of food I cook on a regular basis, there was bound to be some coconut milk creeping in at some stage. What started out as a spoonful added here and there to enhance a stir fry, to deepen the flavour of a vegetable curry, has developed into a full-blown addiction to the full-fat stuff. No, none of that ‘light’ coconut milk for me thank you. On it’s own, coconut milk is fairly bland but, introduce it the fresh tastes of South East Asia and it’s another story entirely.

With the remainder of a side of ocean trout in the freezer, enough for the two of us, I wanted something sharp, fresh and clean from the fish part of the meal. The potatoes, as always, were the starting point. They would be creamy and comforting, but with a depth of flavour from lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf. As it turned out these two meals, delicious as they are on their own, are perfect together.

No, let me rephrase that. They are incredibly, seductively sexy together.

The fish: Simple. For 2.

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Take a large sheet of baking paper, and an equal sized sheet of aluminium foil. Lay the foil down on the bench and place the paper on top. Take two fillets of ocean trout or salmon and, using a sharp knife, remove, and then discard the skin. Place the fillets in the centre of the paper and top with 2 kaffir lime leaves, a small mound of peeled ginger cut into matchsticks, a small red chilli, finely chopped and a handful of fresh coriander. Drizzle over a splash of soy sauce or tamari and a thin dribble of macadamia oil (a light olive would be fine). Wrap up your fish parcel and cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. The fish will be tender and juicy.

The potatoes: I was left wanting some for lunch on Saturday, so beautiful are these and I urge you make the full amount. You’ll be glad you did.

South East Asian crushed coconut potatoes – serves 4

675g of waxy potatoes, scrubbed
2 stalks of lemongrass, tender white part only, finely chopped
400ml tin of coconut milk (full fat – go on, it’s so much better)
3 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
A large handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Fish sauce
A grating of palm sugar (or a pinch of brown)
Half a lime

Cut the potatoes into quarters. Place in a large saucepan of cold water, salt it well, and bring to the boil. Toss in half of the lemongrass and reduce to a simmer, cooking for 20-25 minutes or until they are just beginning to break up. Drain very well when ready and return to the saucepan.

Meanwhile, warm the coconut milk in a small saucepan. Add the remaining lemongrass, the lime leaves and half of the coriander (use the roots too if you’ve been lucky enough to buy it root-end attached). Bring to a simmer then turn off the heat. Leave to infuse while the potatoes cook.

Strain the infused milk over the drained potatoes. Add a little fish sauce, tasting as you go. I love it so will happily add a rather generous splash or two, but suggest you start small – a teaspoon should be a good starting point. Grate a little palm sugar (or add a pinch of brown sugar) into the saucepan, squeeze in half a lime and stir it well. Gently reheat the whole lot, adding the remaining coriander just before serving.


Stephanie said...

oh how I love coconut milk... oh how i try and avoid it...!

Susan said...

Well, you've dispelled my romantic notions of working in a book shop.;)Sounds like you need some nicer customers.

It's a good thing you had this lovely dinner to cheer you up. The lemongrass and coconut are beautiful together as are your photos.

Sara said...

Oooh! that looks delicious. can't wait to try the potatoes!

Lucy said...

Hi Stephanie. Isn't it the best thing? So rich, creamy and to avoid every day. Maybe...!!

Susan - it's not really all that bad and there are some perks, like a large staff discount so that I can own more and more cookbooks... thanks re the photos, I was pretty happy with these ones!

Sara - oh, you must. They are really good served cold the next day too.