Coconut basil perch fillets

from the Age many years ago, still a favourite. Again for this recipe you whizz up a few ingredients in the blender, marinate & fry. I used whole sea bass this time. At first when I went to Peckham Rye (an area in the south of London) I was worried about being ‘in da hood’ & felt a little uncomfortable. Nowadays I keep my valuables close & enjoy the produce – Jamaican & African shops, Irish & Jamaican butchers (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall may bemoan the difficulty of procuring goat meat – I don’t, it’s easy) & a wonderful fresh fish shop where the eyes are unglazed, the crabs wiggle their legs & I choose my fish which are then scaled & gutted for optimal freshness. Mmmmm fish.

Revision – I gutted fish recently, as the Billingsgate fish market don’t do the work for you & it’d be easy if you took the head off first – having decided that I wanted to bake fish head on it was a little harder to persuade the fish to part company with it’s trachea & oesophagus. Doing it yourself means that you’ve got great fish heads & backbones to make fish stock from! And trust me even just boiling a carrot, some leek & an onion in water for half an hour is better than using bought stock!

Actually I’ll give you the recipe below:

serve with Jasmine rice & bok choy (I actually cooked runner beans & carrot in the same pan as the fish)

5 fillets of sea perch (or any firm white-fleshed fish); 2 tbs fresh ginger, roughly chopped; 2 tsp fresh turmeric roughly chopped (or 2 tsp powdered); 2 tbs galangal chopped (wasn’t available so I added some lemon rind & juice, not quite the same); 2 garlic cloves chopped; 2 small red chillies sliced; 4 tbs coriander roots or stems, well washed & finely chopped; 14 kaffir lime leaves sliced (I had to use frozen – the asian store has mangosteens, but not fresh kaffir lime…); 1.5 cups thai basil leaves roughly chopped (the unlabelled leaves on branches with an aniseedy smell usually); 4 tsp white palm sugar, grated (or equiv raw sugar); 4 tsp lemon juice; 2 cups of coconut cream (not available here – I used 1 tin of milk); sea salt

Cut 1 cm deep slits throughout the fillet (to slide in basil leaves). Put everything except 1/2 cup basil leaves, coconut cream & salt in blender & puree, use a little of the coconut cream to make blending easier. When smooth add the rest of the coconut cream & mix. Put half in the fridge & pour the rest over the fish to marinate for an hour in the fridge. Take the fish out. Put the remaining basil leaves in the slits in the fish, dust with salt & fry it in a pan on med-low heat with a lid so that it is just cooked, flipping half way. I can’t bear to waste the sauce so I put all the marinade in the pan to heat up to a simmer (& kill all fish germs). Serve on rice drizzled with the warmed reserved sauce from the fridge (don’t boil it!)

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