In which she follows a recipe


Cookbooks can be an addiction, a voyeuristic portal into an alternate culinary universe. With all those bright pictures and neat columns of ingredients, they present a world where oven tempratures never vary, dirty dishes disappear, and every chicken breast weighs exactly six ounces. I buy them like mad, read them voraciously, but hardly ever actually cook from them. I may pull them down for special occasion recipes, and I often use them for inspiration, but in the sauce-splattered and sticky-fingered universe I inhabit, they hardly ever come into play when just pulling together dinner. Even when I imagine that I am following a recipe, my sideburn growing, motorcycle riding, born to be wild side comes out, and inevitably, I stray from the directive.
However, yesterday I was tired. I felt cranky and unimaginative, and entirely opposed to creativity or invention. I had a vague fish leaning, more from an inclination toward speed than flavor or texture. “Fish,” I thought, “easy. I need something easy to do with fish.” I saw Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer on the bookshelf and reached for it, remembering that she rarely advocates working any harder than is absolutely necessary.

After a languid flip through the fish section, I decided on Coconut and Chilli Salmon Kebabs (British spelling left intact as proof of actual recipe utilization). It had a limited ingredient list consisting largely of things I already had around, and I knew that fish cut into cubes equaled minimal cook time. And I followed the recipe to the letter. Almost. I added just a short step in the end to better use the leftover marinade.
I found the results quite pleasing, and every bit as easy as I’d hoped. The mixture of coconut milk, chilies and cilantro resulted in a bright, spring green color that looked lovely with the pink salmon. Nigella says to think Thai green curry without the sauce. My only complaint is that I wanted more of the marinade flavor in the salmon, which led to my small recipe addition. Here’s the recipe with my thoughts parenthetically.
Coconut and Chilli Salmon Kebabs
2 small Thai green chillis, roughly chopped (I used serranos; honestly, I could have used a bit more heat)
6 scallions, roughly chopped
bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
juice of 2 limes
13 3/4 ounces canned unsweetened coconut milk
pinch salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 pounds, 3 ounces salmon fillet, cut into large cubes
Put the chillies, scallions, fish sauce, cilantro, lime juice, coconut milk, salt, and sugar into a food processor and puree until you have a thick paste. (I just whirred it up in a large measuring cup with my immersion blender).
Put the salmon cubes into a freezer bags and pour in the coconut marinade. Squeeze out the air, seal the bag tightly and leave in the refridgerator for at least an hour. (I went for two hours, and I think longer would have been even better.)
Thread the salmon onto wooden skewers that have been soaked in water; roughly, you should get about three cubes of fish for each kebab. (I put about four cubes per kebab, doubling over the pieces of thin, tail-end fish.)
Grill for about five minutes; she writes, “It’s hard for me to be specific since I don’t know how hot you can get your grill. I find about three minutes a side more or less does it on a hot grill or under a hot broiler.” (I went about three minutes on the first side and two on the second under the broiler. I typically leave my salmon at about medium doneness, but for this application, I liked it a bit more well done.)
Here’s the tiny little addition I made:
Set aside about 1/2 a cup of the marinade and bring to a boil either on the stove or in the microwave, my preference. Don’t let it boil like mad so that the coconut milk doesn’t break. Use this as a dipping sauce for the kebabs.
I served them with jasmine rice and sesame sugar snap peas, and I sprinkled the whole plate with thin-sliced scallions. I

Posted in Food, Recipes
3 comments on “In which she follows a recipe
  1. tejal says:

    I can’t eat salmon well done (can’t tejal, or won’t?) why do you prefer it that way for the kebabs?
    P.S. you’ll be pleased to know I am in the middle of watching The Piano. Ooh!

  2. Martha says:

    I ate one cube when they were a bit less well done, and it just didn’t seem right. The marinade hadn’t really cooked onto the fish yet and it sort of slid off the skewer in a strange way. The bites are so small, the only way they were less done was before I turned them, it was like the top half was cooked and the bottom half was totally raw. These still weren’t straight out fully cooked, but they didn’t have the slighty translucent color that I like in a whole fillet.
    The solution would probably be to cut the fish into much bigger cubes, or better yet, strips. then just put one strip longways per skewer, then blitz about 1 1/2-2 minutes per side.
    (And oh, The Piano. Love love love it! Hope your sniffles are improving by the combined power of custard tarts and erotic period drama.)

  3. tejal says:

    I see. I haven’t bought fish in ages. Ages.
    Oh yes, The Piano. Wow, it was so good. So hot and disturbing and beautiful all at once–am still feeling dreamy and actually yes, better, sniffles are gone!

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