Thai baked fish

Serves 4
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Indy Lifestyle Online

After the boom in Thai cooking, many Asian shops and supermarkets in Britain started to stock banana leaves. If you can't find them, greaseproof paper or foil will do. Asian herbs are also easier to find in supermarkets; some even sell prepared packets of Thai herb and spice mix. Fish such as sea bass, grouper and snapper are good with Thai flavours, but you can use most luxury fish - or even humble ones such as grey mullet - for this.

After the boom in Thai cooking, many Asian shops and supermarkets in Britain started to stock banana leaves. If you can't find them, greaseproof paper or foil will do. Asian herbs are also easier to find in supermarkets; some even sell prepared packets of Thai herb and spice mix. Fish such as sea bass, grouper and snapper are good with Thai flavours, but you can use most luxury fish - or even humble ones such as grey mullet - for this.

1tbsp light (not toasted) sesame oil
1 small mild chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 lemongrass stalk, peeled and the bulbous end roughly chopped
20g galangal or root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 lime leaves, roughly chopped
1/2tsp ground cumin
10g coriander leaves
20g Thai basil
4 fish fillets (see above), each about 200g
1 banana leaf, about 1 metre in size

for the dipping sauce

1tbsp sesame oil
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1tbsp finely chopped galangal or root ginger
1tbsp finely chopped lemongrass
2 lime leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed
3tbsp soy sauce

for the fragrant rice

2 lemongrass stalks, bulbous ends crushed
8 lime leaves
Salt
225g basmati rice, rinsed well in cold water

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Then make the dipping sauce. Heat the sesame oil in a pan and fry the chilli, galangal, lemongrass, lime leaves and garlic gently for 1 minute to soften them and release their flavours. Add the soy sauce, bring to the boil, then allow to cool and pour into a bowl or, ideally, individual dipping-sauce dishes.

Now make the fragrant rice. Cook the lemongrass with the lime leaves in about a litre of simmering salted water for 10 minutes. Add the rice and simmer for 10-12 minutes more until it is just cooked. Drain in a sieve, then return to the pan, cover with a lid and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving. This will help it become nice and fluffy.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the fish. Heat the sesame oil in a pan and gently cook the chopped chilli, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, lime leaves and ground cumin for a couple of minutes until the aromatics are soft. Tip the pan's contents into a food processor with the coriander and Thai basil, together with a couple of tablespoons of water, and blend to a paste. Spread this on the fish fillets and wrap each one in a piece of banana leaf like a parcel, folding the leaf so the edges join beneath the fillet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the tip of a skewer inserted into the centre of a parcel comes out hot.

Place a fish parcel on each plate with a pot of the dipping sauce. Serve the rice in individual bowls or in a large bowl to be passed around.

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