Sunday, 13 November 2011

cod poached in spiced coconut milk

cod poached in a spiced coconut milk
with basmati and wild rice
when it comes to southeast asian cuisine, i much prefer their clear broths. don’t let the clarity and lack of colour fool you, as not only do they pack depth but in most cases an unbridled chili heat. i like how the clear soup with its medley of flavours makes the taste-buds sing and sometimes the eyes water. needless to say o isn’t too keen on clear soups. he loves the heavier creamier cousins that mute the chili and awaken the senses only gently.

with the summer firmly behind us but winter not yet fully on us i wanted something that is fresh and bright with a little warmth for dinner. every so often i like to stay in on a friday night. o will usually concoct a cocktail if we aren’t having wine and i’ll put together something that i think o would like. a couple of weeks ago i made a citrus and coriander baked fish and was surprised at how well the cod took to southeast asian herbs and spice. with that having worked well i decided to make a spiced coconut milk to poach cod in, as well as stand in as a rich sauce. i always use mint and coriander for freshness and colour, acidic lemon juice and tamarind to cut through the creaminess of coconut milk and red chilli to add warmth. lemongrass is fragrant and softly citrus. sugar is used to tame the tartness of the tamarind as well as to add vibrancy to the chilli.

spice based for poaching milk
for the coconut ‘poaching’ milk you will need
a twenty-five gram bunch of mint leaves, reserving four leaves for garnishing
a twenty-five gram bunch of coriander reserving a few stalks for garnishing
two red chillies
one stalk of lemongrass, tough outer skin removed
juice of a lemon
two tablespoons tamarind paste
two tablespoons soft brown sugar
a pinch of salt
one can of full-fat coconut milk

two medium cod loins
steamed jasmine rice or basmati with wild-rice

roughly chop the mint, coriander, red chillies and lemongrass. place all the ingridients except the coconut milk in a food processor and whizz briefly. i like to use the blade attachment rather than the hand blender so that the herbs are heavily bruised but not fully pureed. i do this because i like a little bit of texture. add the coconut milk and give it a brief whizz just so that the ingredients come together.

place the poaching liquid in a deep frying pan which has a lid. let it come to a merry simmer after which you can reduce the heat to medium. if your cod loins are long cut them into pieces three inches wide. place the fish in the poaching liquid and cover partially with a lid. simmer them for around ten to twelve minutes. they are cooked through when they flake easily.

i shaped the basmati with wild-rice into a little mound using a small bowl and place the poached cod on it spooning the poaching liquid round. i garnished it with  julienned mint and chopped coriander. the first bite of a creative cooking experiment always makes me nervous. in fact o can be quite the critic. i once gave him not so perfect changa eggs and was subjected to a rather meandering critique through brunch. luckily, tonight’s dinner hit all the right notes. o loved the infused coconut milk. this kind of a poaching liquid would work really well with salmon as well. if you want to stick with a white fleshed fish just make sure that it is thick and has a big flake. a thin fish like tilapia would disintegrate and its mild meat would be obscured by the spiced poaching milk. this is a simple fish supper, one that you can pull together easily on a week night.   

i know that o would as always want something sweet to end the night but i really was in no mood to put together something from scratch. instead i bought home a small tin of clement faugier’s chesnut spread. o hasn’t always thought much of chestnuts. i love them roasted whole or as christmas treat with a coat of frosty glace. i have at times been known to squeeze chestnut spread from a tube and eat it too. it’s good whipped with cream-cheese and spread on toast. for tonight’s dessert i combined a small tin of chestnut spread with a tart greek yoghurt and spooned it into little glasses. i dusted the top with some ground cinnamon and orange peel to add a little bite. my apprehensions were unfounded as o loved the dessert. moral of the story. always tell o the ingredients after he is done trying.  

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