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Baked Fish with Tomato, Cucumber & Ginger Salsa

This first recipe is from the BBC website (www.bbc.co.uk/food) and was created by Rachel Allen who, if you don’t know, is a  TV chef, cook and author. This particular recipe was featured on her television programme ‘Rachel’s Favourite Food for Living’. The original recipe can be found here

This will serve 4 people and is very much a two part recipe; first prepare the salsa and then get on with cooking the fish.

For the salsa:

  • 6 tbsp rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 50g/2oz sugar
  • 400g/14oz tomatoes, chopped into 1cm/½in pieces
  • 1 cucumber, de-seeded and chopped into 1cm/½ in pieces
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 spring onion, trimmed and finely chopped
  • ½-1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • juice of ½ a lime
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

For the fish:

  • 4 portions (150g-175g/5-6oz each) fish, such as salmon, tuna,
  • mackerel, mullet or sea bass, off the bone but leave the skin on if you
  • wish (de-scale if it’s salmon, mullet or sea bass)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. For the salsa, boil the vinegar, fish sauce and sugar (stir to dissolve the sugar) in a non-reactive saucepan for five minutes until it thickens slightly.
  3. Place in a large mixing bowl and leave to cool.
  4. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, chilli, lime juice, coriander and ginger, toss and add more lime juice or ginger if necessary.
  5. For the fish, place each fish portion on a large piece of oiled parchment paper or aluminium foil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then roll up the edges of the paper or foil to prevent the juices from burning in the dish and enclose, sealing the edges.
  6. Cook in the oven for 12-18 minutes or until the fish is cooked through to the centre.
  7. To serve, place the parcels on warmed serving plates with the salsa.

Rachel says to allow between 30 mins to 1 hour for prep and the same for cooking. I think this is very generous, my prep was done in about 20 minutes and total cooking time was a little over 15 minutes but I’ll explain that later…

Great Colours

So I’ve got my oven heating and my pan of ‘salsa juice’ is boiling away. [As an aside I used palm sugar for this recipe, I always tend to when I’m using Asian flavours.] In the end it was on the heat for about 7 minutes and it was just starting to thicken up when I transferred to a mixing bowl to cool.  I then chopped and prepared the vegetables for the salsa as instructed which meant small onion, chilli and spring onion with much larger tomato and cucumber pieces. As you can see the colours really do look enticing.

Then it was on to cooking the fish. Although I had prepared enough salsa for 4 people it was only going to be my wife and I for dinner so all I needed was 2 portions of fish which WEREN’T in the fridge – doh!!!

Fortunately I live quite close to an Asda supermarket so off I went. The fish counter had been decimated but I caught a glimpse of two salmon portions which were about 140g each and so that’s what I went for. When I got home I decided to do things a little differently and instead pan-fry the fish.

I dried the salmon portions by patting them down with kitchen towel, seasoned them well with salt and pepper and carefully laid them in a hot pan containing sunflower oil, skin side down. When I say it was a hot pan I mean there was a slight haze above it but not hot to the point where the oil was smoking. Then I just LEFT THEM ALONE for 4 minutes, controlling the heat if I thought the pan was getting too hot. After 4 minutes you can flip them over to see a lovely golden skin, turn the heat of the pan right down and cook them through on the other side which usually takes another 3 to 4 minutes. That’s why my cooking times were diminished but then again, baking should only take you another 10 minutes.

Juicy Salsa & Crispy Salmon

We both thought the dish was delicious although the ginger was lost in the salsa. Another point was the different sizes of the ingredients in the salsa, Wife thought it would have been just that little bit nicer if they were all of a more approximate size. If I was to do it again I’d definitely still pan fry the salmon (I think the crunchy skin added a great dimension) but I would cut the tomato and cucumber a little smaller and maybe make it up to 1 1/2 tsp of finely grated ginger.

It’s an easy dish to prepare that goes well with a cold glass of dry wine or continental lager. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.


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