Good enough for Jehovah
Remind me what the point of a fishmonger is who doesn’t actually prepare your fish for you? I do realise I should have got up early and trekked to a local fishmonger, arriving just after he had brought his catch in for the day, but truthfully at 6pm on a Friday evening in central London, the Waitrose fish counter was my best option. Only “fish counter” is really rather a loose term, since the very helpful young man who picked up the piece of fish, put it on the scale and read the number off the digital screen refused to fillet the fish for me. Sigh. Not that I don’t love an excuse to pull my boning knife out and hack away inexpertly at a piece of meat (I will find time to read that knife skills book, I will, I will), but, well, I rather assumed that was all part of the service at a fish counter. Apparently not. Anyway, rant over, but if you’re not au fait with halibut let me tell you now that the bone (erm, I’m going with spine and other assorted bony bits) in the centre of a big double fillet is actually quite large, so buy a little more than you think you’ll need if it’s not already filleted.
This recipe is really very easy, despite the long ingredients list, as long as you have a food processor of some sort. I recently invested in a mini chopper, having made do with a pestle and mortar and an immersion blender for too long, and though I dislike buying kitchen gadgets that take up space and may have limited use, it was £25 very well spent. Unless you’re regularly making meals for 4 people or more, a wee baby chopper or mini blender is all you need and it will make sauces, pestos, curry blends and even grinding small quantities of flour (gf oat flour for example) possible. Hurrah!
1 shallot, roughly chopped into chunks
1 green birdseye chilli
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 small handful coriander, stalks and leaves, roughly torn
1 stalk lemongrass (about 3-4 inches long), chopped into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 kaffir lime leaf
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons water
1 400-g can coconut milk
1/2 tablespoons (about 5 big drops) fish sauce
Zest of 1 lime
250g halibut, boned and skinned (when all this is done you’ll probably have closer to 175g, but that should be just enough for 2 people)
1 red birdseye chilli
1 shallot, cut into rings
1 lime, peeled and chopped into cubes
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1. Put the first 12 ingredients (shallot, chilli, garlic, coriander, lemongrass, ginger, ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, lime leaf, salt and water) into a food processor and blend for about 30 seconds or until a nearly smooth paste. (I left it with a few very small pieces of shallot and garlic in there, and pieces of coriander that you could see. A completely smooth paste will give a more uniform colour and taste; you may need to add a little more liquid to achieve this.)
2. In a small saucepan (so that the coconut milk, when added, comes a good inch or two up the sides of the pan) pour a drizzle of oil (vegetable or sunflower). Heat until sizzling, then add the curry paste you’ve just made. Fry this for 2-3 minutes, or until it starts to brown and smells freaking amazing. Then add the coconut milk, the lime zest and the fish sauce. Bring this mixture to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add the halibut and then take the saucepan off the heat. Put a lid on and let the residual heat cook the fish, leaving it nice and tender. Clever eh?
3. In the 5 minutes or less it will take the fish to cook put a frying pan over a high heat with a drizzle of oil. Add the red chilli, shallot rings and lime and fry quickly until they are blackened round the edges, about 2-3 minutes. Maybe open a window while you’re doing this. At the very least don’t stand near the pan and take a big sniff as I can confidently say that the steam/smoke from blackening birdseye chillies is very painful on the eyes, nose and throat.
4. Serve the curry over jasmine rice, topped with the fried shallots, chillies and lime and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.
Serves 2. If you’ve read this far and you’re still puzzled as to where Jehovah comes in, please go and watch Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, then come back. Thank you.