Lemongrass-cured snapper bites
( SERVES 6 )
Photo by Tamara West
Fresh snapper and stale bread, sounds like a summer holiday! If you’ve had your fill of fresh snapper in the pan (is that even possible?) this is a really easy and delicious alternative. Coating the fish in rock salt for an hour slightly dries and seasons it. Cured this way, fish has a lovely texture — it’s a little firmer and more approachable than raw, with a lovely translucency that shows the natural colours. I’ve added lime zest and grated lemongrass for their exotic fragrance, but you could also use orange or lemon zest as a variation. Looking for a crunchy texture to go with the snapper, I had a sudden burst of enthusiastic experimentation and dipped stale sourdough toast in coconut cream. Once baked for a few minutes it crisps up nicely, just right as a base to layer with fresh toppings. Keeping with the tropical theme, these bites have mango for sweetness plus a bit of chilli and lime for excitement. A tray of these would go perfectly with a glass of cold white wine on a hot afternoon. Any really fresh fish can be cured in salt like this, just remember that if it smells fishy before you cure it, you probably won’t enjoy eating it afterwards. Use coconut cream, not coconut milk for the toast bites — it needs to be thick and creamy so it doesn’t make the bread too soggy when you dip it in. The cured fish will keep in the fridge for a few days so you can prepare it beforehand and do the rest quickly when you want to serve.
For the fish
For the pickle
For the sourdough and to serve
- Spread half the rock salt over a dish the same size as the piece of fish and sprinkle with half the lime zest and lemongrass. Place the fish on top then repeat in reverse — lime and lemongrass followed by the rest of the salt to cover. Just think of a fish sandwich with the fragrant bits touching the fish, and salt wrapped all around. Cover and leave in the fridge: 60 minutes for a thin piece of fish, 75-90 minutes for a thicker piece. The longer you leave it to cure the saltier it will be. Once the time is up, rinse the fish clean under cold water to remove all lumps of salt then quickly pat dry with paper towels. Slice very thinly on an angle, cutting across the lines of the fish. To check this, look at the fish side on and turn it over if the angle you plan to cut at is the same as the lines of the fish.
- Place the cucumber in a bowl with the salt, lime juice and chilli and let it sit 10 minutes or so for a quick pickle.
- Stir the coconut cream in a shallow bowl with the salt and grated ginger. Dip the toasted sourdough lightly on both sides then place on a baking paper lined oven tray. Sprinkle with a little desiccated coconut then bake in a 200C oven for 5-10 minutes until lightly browned and crispy. Cut into bite sized pieces.
- To assemble, place a piece of mango on the coconut toast then layer with cucumber, tomato, coriander and top with a piece of snapper. Drizzle with a splash of the tasty cucumber pickling liquid then finish with a sprinkle of finely grated lemongrass.