THE GUARDIAN – A rich, coconutty mussel soup, devilled prawns, fragrant mackerel wrapped in banana leaves, all topped with a good sprinkling of coconut chutney
BANANA LEAF MACKEREL
Prep 10 min, plus soaking
Marinate 30 minutes – two hours
Cook 35 min
Serves four as a main
Two tsp sea salt
Two tsp turmeric powder
Four limes, two juiced, two cut in half, to serve
Two whole mackerel, cleaned
Two tsp cumin seeds
Two tsp fennel seeds
300g fresh coriander
Five garlic cloves
Five cm piece fresh ginger, peeled
Three green chillies
Three stems fresh lemongrass, trimmed – remove the huskier outer layers and use only the first five to seven cm of the white bit at the bottom
Four tbsp desiccated coconut, soaked in a little warm water for 30 minutes (or four tbsp fresh grated coconut)
10-12 curry leaves, ideally fresh
Three quarter tsp sugar
Two tbsp coconut oil
Two banana leaves, for wrapping (or use baking paper and kitchen foil)
In a small bowl, mix half a teaspoon of salt, the turmeric and lime juice, then rub all over the fish and leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.
Toast the cumin and fennel in a dry pan for two minutes, until fragrant, then tip into a processor with the remaining ingredients, and blitz to a thick, coarse paste – add a splash of water, if need be. Taste for seasoning, and add some more salt if needed.
Heat the oven to 180C. Spread the paste generously over each fish, then wrap each one, first in a banana leaf, making a neat parcel, and then double wrap with tinfoil and crunch the ends together to seal; if you can’t find banana leaves (most Asian food stores have them), wrap first in baking paper, then in tinfoil. Do not wrap too tightly – you need to leave space for the fish to steam.
Put the parcels on a baking sheet and bake for 22-25 minutes (if you have a large enough steamer, this fish is great steamed, too, but avoid using tinfoil, if so), then unwrap at the table. Serve with charred lime halves – simply lay the lime halves cut side down in a dry hot pan and leave for a minute; you can do this ahead of time, if need be.
Prep 15-20 minutes
Marinate one hour
Cook 25 minutes
Serves four as a starter or part of
350g prawns, peeled and deveined
Two tsp red chilli flakes
Salt and black pepper
Two tbsp vegetable or rapeseed oil
Six cm cinnamon stick
Three cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
Six garlic cloves, peeled and
Two green chillies, finely chopped
Eight to 10 curry leaves
One large, ripe tomato,
Two tbsp tomato ketchup
One tbsp tomato paste
Two tsp coconut vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
Four spring onions, trimmed
Two medium red onions, peeled and finely chopped
One green or red pepper, stalk, seeds and pith removed, cut into one cm cubes
Sugar, to taste
Finely chopped coriander and spring onions, to garnish
Put the prawns in a bowl with half the chilli flakes and half a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and leave to marinate for an hour.
Heat the oil in a wok on medium heat, add the cinnamon, ginger and garlic, and stir-fry until the garlic turns golden brown. Add the remaining red chilli flakes, green chilli and curry leaves, and take off the heat.
Stir in the tomatoes, paste and ketchup, put back on the heat and stir-fry for three to four minutes. Add the vinegar and spring onions, and stir-fry on a medium heat for six to eight minutes, until the sauce is thick and glossy.
Add the onions, green peppers and prawns, stir-fry on high heat for five to seven minutes, until the prawns are pink and cooked through, then add sugar and salt to taste.
Tip out on to a platter, garnish with chopped fresh coriander and sliced spring onions, and serve hot.
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 20 minutes
Serves four as a starter or part of
One tbsp coconut oil
One tsp fenugreek seeds
One cinnamon stick
One brown onion, peeled and
Three garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Three quarter tsp turmeric powder
400g coconut milk
Two fresh lemongrass stems, bashed
Two green chillies, slit lengthways
Eight to 10 curry leaves
Sea salt, to taste
500g live mussels, washed and beards removed
One lime, juiced
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the fenugreek and cinnamon, fry for 30 seconds, then add the onion and garlic and keep stirring until soft but not coloured – three or four minutes. Add the turmeric and cook, stirring, for 15 seconds, taking care it doesn’t catch and burn.
Add all remaining ingredients except the mussels and lime juice, bring up to a simmer and leave to cook for 10 minutes – do not let it boil or the coconut milk might split. Check the seasoning (keep it a touch under-seasoned, because the mussels are quite salty), then turn off the heat. You can do all this ahead of time, up to a couple of days in advance, and store the sauce in the fridge until you are ready to steam the mussels.
When you’re ready to cook the mussels, bring the sauce to a simmer in a deep, lidded saucepan (again, don’t let it boil). Add the mussels (discard any with damaged shells or any that do not shut when given a sharp tap), cover the pan at once, and leave to cook for three to four minutes, shaking the still covered pan every 30 seconds or so.
Discard any mussels that do not open, then serve at once in bowls with a squeeze of lime to finish.
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Serves four as a relish
Three quarter cup freshly
Two green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
One small banana shallot, peeled and finely chopped
One tbsp bright red chilli flakes
Half tsp crushed black peppercorns
Half tsp Maldive fish pieces – you can buy these from many Asian food stores (or use one tsp fish
One tsp sea salt, or to taste
Juice of half lime, or to taste
Tie the coconut in muslin cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as possible so it’s dry as can be (or press it down in a fine-mesh sieve to extract the liquid); reserve the liquid for a curry.
In a mortar, bash the green chillies, shallots, chilli flakes, black pepper, Maldive fish (if using) and sea salt until broken up, but do not paste them.
Add the coconut and continue pounding until its all mixed through and you’re left with a coarse, bright-red mix. Mix in the lime juice and stir thoroughly. Adjust the salt, lime and chilli to taste, and serve immediately alongside curries, rice or roti.