Do you ever get those ‘Oh’ moments? When you thought something was really difficult and then something suddenly clicked and you felt a little ridiculous? I was like that with fish. I had always been too intimidated to try cooking seafood on the BBQ and then my wife bought me a lesson at a BBQ school. I went, learned, and said ‘Oh’. A lot.
And so it was that I set about creating my own Thai wonder-dish! Just in time for Good Friday too!
My first tip is always buy your seafood from a fresh seafood market. If you can’t get to one you can fall back on supermarket seafood, but fresh is undoubtedly best. My fish here is a reef fish, about one kilo in weight. Freshly caught off the reef that morning. The catch: turns out it was cleaned but not scaled. Always ask for a scaled fish: my backyard looks like it was snowing out there!
A tip for making sure your fish is fresh is to look at its eyes. The clearer the eye, the fresher the fish.
To prep your marinade, put some black peppercorns in a mortar and pestle and crush them up. Add a teaspoon of sea salt (crush it if you’ve got rock salt) and begin to prepare the other ingredients. Add in some fresh basil (dried is okay but try to remember my hidden ‘fresh is best’ message), coriander, a chopped red chilli, a knob of finely chopped fresh ginger, a some finely chopped fresh garlic. Add the juice of two limes and a tablespoon of Sunflower oil. Mix it all up and it’s ready.
Put your fish in a dish and score the flesh three times. Rub your marinade into these scores, make sure it’s all over the skin, and also smear some in the cavity of the fish. Don’t be shy with it: you don’t need to keep any. Put your fish back in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, but 2 hours is better.
The trick to cooking your fish is one of these guys: a fish griller. You can get them for about 20 bucks at a BBQ or hardware store. Make sure you oil it up nicely to make sure that the fish doesn’t stick as it cooks. I used some spray Sunflower oil and it worked a treat.
You need to choose a burner under your grill and turn it on to a high heat. Don’t worry too much about burning your fish as the griller will keep your fish about 2 centimetres above the grill.
You may find, like I did, that the handle of your fish griller sticks out from under the lid of your grill. I found a strategically placed empty beer bottle did the trick: just make sure you put it as far away from the heat as possible, and always grab it before you open the lid in case it falls out.
You’ll also need some BBQ mitts or oven gloves to turn the fish griller. You’ll want to do this at least every ten minutes for a total of forty minutes. Your fish is done when the eye is white like an egg and the flesh flakes when you press on it.
Once you’ve started cooking your fish, put 2 cups of rice and 3 cups of water in a saucepan on your side-burner at a maximum heat level. When it starts to boil reduce the heat to the minimum and set a timer for 14 minutes. When the timer goes off, turn off the burner, but leave the lid on the saucepan: don’t mess with the rice yet as you need it to absorb all the water it can so it won’t absorb the flavours we’re going to add next.
With ten minutes to spare before the fish is done, stir in some coconut oil, desiccated coconut, finely chopped fresh ginger, chopped coriander stalks and some sea salt. This will be yummy yummy!
This will bring you to the end of your forty minutes cooking time on your fish. Bring it and the rice inside for serving. To present, you could try lifting some of the fish off the frame carefully and laying it atop a bed of the rice and garnish with fresh coriander. Alternatively, put the rice on the side and top it with some chilli slices and fresh coriander. To get that nice upside-down bowl look, just put some rice in a bowl and…. tip it upside-down on the plate! Give it a squeeze of fresh lime and enjoy.