Coconut Poached Sea Bass with Chilli Sambal
There used to be a grocer round the corner from where I worked that sold this chilli sauce. I would buy it all the time and spread in over eggs, fish and mix into to salad dressings. It basically went with everything and became a fridge staple. When the shop closed I was at a loss and had to try and remember all the ingredients to recreate it. This is pretty much how I remember the taste and I teamed it with a delicate coconut poached sea bass for my Fast Food series for my guest, Dr Rhona Eskander. If you wanted to chuck in a few quick-cook veggies with the coconut cream you can. Some spinach or peas would be nice. I went for roast broccoli and then some corn couscous which is a great gluten-free option.
2 sea bass fillets (I bought mine from the master, Rex Goldsmith)
320ml coconut cream (milk is fine too)
1 lemongrass stick, sliced lengthways
sea salt and black pepper
For the chilli sambal
(this makes enough for a few portions, if you have time then I recommend doubling up the recipe so you have enough for a week or two)
80g chillis, medium size, tops trimmed and deseeded
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
7 anchovy fillets
1 medium banana shallot, roughly chopped
4 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra to loosen the paste
1 tsp unrefined caster sugar
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp fish sauce
zest and juice of 1/2 a lime
Start making the sambal. Throw the deseeded chilli, garlic, anchovies and shallot into a blender and pulse blend until they are all roughly the same size. You do not want to over blend and it become watery and mushy. It should be no more than a few pulses. Set a large non-stick frying pan to a medium to high heat and add the sunflower oil. Scrape all the chilli mix into the pan and use a spatula to spread it evenly across the surface of the pan. Let this fry for about 5 minutes every so often moving everything around the pan. You might need to reduce the heat to avoid burning. Then add in the sugar and cumin powder and allow everything to fry for another 5 minutes. Pour in a little more sunflower oil and the sauce should have started to turn a much darker red. Once it’s darkened and has reduced you can scrape everything into a small bowl and add the tamarind, fish sauce, lime zest and juice. It should be sweet from the caramelised shallots but have a kick. This isn’t very spicy so just add or loose a chilli depending on your preference.
Just before the sauce is ready you can cook the fish. Place a frying pan on the hob to a medium to high heat and add the coconut cream, lemongrass and season. Bring everything to a gentle simmer. Place the fillets skin side down into the coconut cream and gently simmer for 2-3 minutes before carefully turning over for another 30 seconds. I had quite thick fillets that took 3.5 minutes to cook but it could take less time for a thinner fish. Remove from the heat when the flesh is just falling apart from the skin and use a slotted spoon to divide between two plates. Add a dollop of chilli samba on top and serve with greens and rice of your choice.