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Spiced whole fish

Serves: 4

Cooking time: 1.5hrs

Difficulty: Easy

Difficulty

For the fish:

  • 4 whole sea bream, 350-400g each, gutted, cleaned, fins and tails trimmed
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 4 tbsp clarified butter, to baste
  • lemon wedges, to serve
For the stuffing:
  • 2 lime leaves, torn into 2-3 pieces
  • 100g boiled basmati rice (30g uncooked weight)
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp sugar
For the spice crust:
  • 4 tbsp coriander seeds, roasted
  • 4 tbsp cumin seeds, roasted
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns, roasted lightly
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 100g coriander stalks and leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp vegetable or corn oil

This is a simple but very effective dish for entertaining or an impressive family lunch. You could easily wrap the fish in foil and cook over a barbecue, but baking in the oven is possibly the simplest method. Vivek Singh recommends using sea bass, but you can also use sea bass, pomfret, snapper or mackerel – anything you like really. The spice crust has quite a kick to it. Depending upon how coarsely you’ve pounded the spices, you end up with an interesting texture which beautifully highlights the delicate texture of moist fish.

1. First, prepare the fish. Using a sharp knife, slash the fish two or three times on each side and rub in the salt, chilli powder, turmeric and lemon juice. Set aside for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C/ gas mark 6.

3. Mix together the stuffing ingredients and divide equally between the fish, spooning it into the belly (you may omit the stuffing if you wish).

4. To make the spice crust, coarsely pound all the dry ingredients together using a pestle and mortar, then mix together with the garlic, ginger, coriander and oil. Apply the spice crust to both sides of the fish to form an even coating.

5. Place the fish on a baking tray and cook in a preheated oven for 15-18 minutes. If the fish starts to colour too quickly, reduce the temperature to 180 degrees C/gas mark 4 after 6-8 minutes and carefully turn the fish over for even cooking.

6. Baste with clarified butter halfway through the cooking time. If you think the spice crust is in danger of burning, cover the fish with foil. To check the fish is cooked, insert the tip of a sharp knife or a wooden skewer through the thickest part of the fish; if the juices run clear and the tip feels warm to the lips then the fish is cooked.

7. Serve the fish with a simple salad, accompanied by lemon wedges.

Ingredients

For the fish:

  • 4 whole sea bream, 350-400g each, gutted, cleaned, fins and tails trimmed
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 4 tbsp clarified butter, to baste
  • lemon wedges, to serve
For the stuffing:
  • 2 lime leaves, torn into 2-3 pieces
  • 100g boiled basmati rice (30g uncooked weight)
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp sugar
For the spice crust:
  • 4 tbsp coriander seeds, roasted
  • 4 tbsp cumin seeds, roasted
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns, roasted lightly
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 100g coriander stalks and leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp vegetable or corn oil

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