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Lebanese-style snapper

"This dish is Lebanese-peasant done fancy with all the peasant-style flavours you'll find in Lebanese cooking, but with a beautiful piece of fish added," says Bacash. "The trick to not overcooking fish is to be aware that it cooks from the outside inwards and the centre should only cook until it's warm, not hot. If it gets hot in the middle, it will become overcooked from the residual heat. It takes a little practise getting to know this - be conscious of the inside of the fish and not the outside. Until you get it right, you can always get a little paring knife and peek inside the flesh when you think it's ready; it won't damage it too much."

12-hour barbecue beef brisket

"Texas is world-renowned for barbecuing a mean brisket, the flat and fatty slab of meat, cut from the cow's lower chest," says Stone. "Cooking a simply seasoned brisket low and slow on a smoker (or kettle barbecue when barbecuing at home), gradually rendering the gummy white fat while simultaneously infusing smoky flavour into the meat, is a labour of love. Although time-consuming, briskets are not difficult to cook. And while you'll note that this one takes a whopping 12 hours to cook, don't be alarmed if your brisket needs another hour or so - this timing is an approximation, and greatly depends on the size of your brisket and heat of your barbecue." The brisket can also be cooked in an oven (see note).

Fish head curry (Gulai kepala ikan)


You'll need

1.5 kg fish head, preferably snapper 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil ¼ tsp black mustard seeds 50 curry leaves (see note) ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds 1 stalk lemon grass, outer leaves removed, white part only, bruised 1 star anise 30 gm (¼ cup) Malaysian fish curry powder (see note) 2½ tbsp tamarind pulp, soaked in 2 cups of warm water 500 ml (2 cups) light coconut milk 5 small okra 2 Japanese eggplants, cut into wedges 1 vine-ripened tomato, cut into wedges   Spice paste 5 dried long red chillies, soaked in boiling water until soft, drained 2 fresh long red chillies, seeds removed and coarsely chopped 5 red shallots, thinly sliced 3 cloves garlic 2 cm piece turmeric, thinly sliced 2 cm piece galangal, coarsely chopped 5 cm piece ginger, coarsely chopped 1 stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced

Method

  • 01
  • Rinse fish head in cold water, season with 1 tsp of salt, stand for 20 minutes and wash off salt just before cooking.
  • 02
  • For spice paste, process ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
  • 03
  • Heat oil in a large wok or pan over medium-high heat and fry mustard seeds until they pop, add curry leaves and fenugreek seeds, stir for a few seconds, then add spice paste, lemongrass and star anise. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes or until fragrant and oil separates. Add curry powder and stir for another 2 minutes. Strain tamarind mixture into pan, discarding solids, add coconut milk and bring to the boil, stirring continuously.
  • 04
  • Place fish head into sauce, reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 8-10 minutes or until fish is almost cooked. Add okra and eggplant, then simmer for another 3-5 minutes or until soft. Season to taste with white sugar and salt, add tomato and serve immediately with rice passed separately.
Note Use fresh not dried curry leaves. Dried leaves don't have the distinctive fragrance that is essential to the dish. Available from select green grocers and supermarkets. Fish curry powder is made with coriander, fennel, fenugreek and cumin seeds, black peppercorns, turmeric powder and roasted dried chillies. Alagappa's and Cap Burong Nuri are the best. Available from Asian food stores.

One of the most recognised Malaysian dishes, it's thought to have been created by a Southern Indian cook in the 50s in Singapore. Although many find the idea of eating fish heads confronting, the tender cheeks are quite irresistible and you'll adore the flavours of the curry leaves mingled with lemongrass. Fish fillet works well, too.

At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people

Drink Suggestion

Ripe, rich, late-harvested pinot gris.

Featured in

Apr 2007

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