red snapper with chilli and coriander, and roasted cauliflower

i kind of wanted to write this post before i cooked the dinner just because i knew it'd be good. i didn't, of course, because that would be stupid, and because i am superstitious enough to think i might jinx it.

anyway, it was good. really good. sometimes there is little you can say about a recipe beyond that. i don't feel like describing the nuances of taste - i know it's evocative and i like reading other people's descriptions (well, not everyone's) - but there are time when you just have to go and cook and find out for yourself.

even if you don't eat fish, do the cauliflower and sauce. eat it with a green salad and maybe some salty feta cheese.

snapper is quite robust so you don't need to be shy with the flavouring. normally, we would marinate the fish in the herbs and spices half an hour before eating but this time we did it separately. i am sure both would work - in fact, stuffing a whole fish with this mixture would be great.

for two

1 cauliflower
2 red snapper fillets
olive oil
a small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped finely
1 small clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 red chilli, chopped finely
1 lime, juice only

actually, that's a very short list of ingredients for a great dinner. the only thing i omitted are the salad leaves we ate it with. they were the only thing i bought at the farmer's market on sunday except flowers. (everything else still firmly belonged to winter and i've eaten enough cabbage - exotic or otherwise - for now, thank you.) they were a lovely spring mix of bitter, citrusy greens, some tasting exactly like mustard. you could, of course, eat anything else you like with it. in fact, i almost sliced some raw fennel very finely instead.

half an hour before you want to eat (or more, but i think half an hour is minimum), mix the coriander, garlic and chilli with lime juice. i tend to chop the chilli first, squash the garlic with the back of the knife and then chop the coriander on top of it so it's all mixed up. the amount of lime juice you need is inexact science - you need to taste it. i used almost a whole lime but it wasn't a particularly juicy one. stir in enough olive oil to make it into almost a sauce - you need to be able to spoon it over your fish. season with salt to taste.

now for the cauliflower. i would normally parboil it quickly for a minute or two but i couldn't be bothered this time and thought i would just roast it for longer. so all i did was slice it in four - it falls apart almost immediately but those little broken bits are the ones that go most caramelised so don't worry about it. put it all in a roasting dish, pour over about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix it all well with your hands. you have to do the hands thing - otherwise there'll be bits of cauliflower that aren't coated at all and they'll just go a bit dry and pointless. season with salt and pepper.

roast in a very hot oven - 220C - for about 40 minutes. check after half an hour and have a nibble at one of the little bits - sometimes the cauliflower will look golden brown but will still be too crunchy. mine was perfect after exactly 40.

for the fish, preheat the oven to 200C. i just opened the oven door after roasting the cauliflower - it brought the temperature down a little. season the snapper fillets with salt and pepper.

heat olive oil in an oven proof frying pan on medium to high heat. when hot, place the fillets skin side down and fry, undisturbed, for 3 minutes or so. if fresh, the fish will curl up - press it down with a spatula. when the skin is golden and crispy, turn the fish and immediately put the whole pan in the oven (or transfer to an oven-proof dish). cook for another 5 or 6 minutes. the cooking time will really depend on how big your fish is - it might need longer than this.

spoon the sauce over the fish fillets and the cauliflower and eat with some salad leaves.


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