15 January 2012

Assorted seafood braised in coconut milk

Last night my beloved and I had a few of our friends over to catch up over food and a few drinks after Christmas/New Year travels. It was a beautifully cool evening in Brisbane, and although rain was predicted, the heavens held off and gave us an unnaturally cool summer evening.

As I went to Labrador -- a beautiful calm water beach on the Gold Coast -- on Friday with my sister, nieces and parents, where we had a swim, played in the playground, had a BBQ lunch, enjoyed a (much needed) coffee, we then had to hit the local fish market, Charis Seafoods. This place is fantastic with all the seafood looking incredibly fresh and irresistible; I could barely contain my excitement. All of us walked away with something: red emperor fillets for my sister, john dory fillets and calamari tubes for my father, and green prawns, swordfish fillets and squid for myself.

With this kind of exceptional seafood at my fingertips, my menu for Saturday night was decided: seafood. And as I was hankering for an Asian fish curry, dinner was decided.

Assorted seafood braised in coconut milk
from Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey

Assorted seafood braised in coconut milk
(photo by TSRK team)
Rick's original recipe is for 4 people, which I'll include here. I doubled it for 5 people and let's just say I had practically nothing left but a little bowl full for my lunch today.

400g fish fillets. I used swordfish, Rick suggests monkfish, john dory, barramundi, gurnard or sea bass.
250g prepared medium-sized squid
12 large raw peeled prawns
Freshly ground white pepper
1 tbsp lime juice
200g (8 heaped tbsp) Balinese spice paste (see below for the recipe)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn into small pieces
2 fat lemongrass stalks, halved and bruised
120ml chicken stock
250ml coconut milk

Cut fish into 3-4cm chunks. Slit the body pouches of the squid along one side, open them out flat and score the inside into a fine diamond pattern with the tip of a small, sharp knife. Cut the squid pouches length ways into strips suitable to your liking. Score the fins in the same way and cut in half, then separate the tentacles into pairs.

Put the fish, squid and peeled prawns in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and the lime juice. Mix it together. Add half of the spice paste and rub it well all over the pieces of seafood.

Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan over a medium heat. Add the remaining spice paste and fry gently for 2-3 minutes until it starts to smell fragrant. Add the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and stock and simmer for 1 minute.

Add the pieces of fish only to the pan and leave to cook for 1 minute, then turn them over and cook for a further minute. Add the coconut milk to the pan, together with the squid and prawns, and simmer for 2 minutes until all the seafood is just cooked. Season to taste with a little more salt (if needed, mine didn't) and lime juice to taste and serve.

TSRK tip
Although this is a Balinese dish and many Asian dishes cook seafood longer, I stick to my preference of just cooked seafood. It is a lot tenderer and seems to melt in your mouth this way. So remember, don't let this dish sit around cooking on an element as it will continue to cook in the heat of its on sauce even while it is in the bowl ready to be devoured.

Assorted seafood braised in coconut milk
(photo by TSRK team)
Balinese spice paste
1.5 tsp black peppercorns
half nutmeg
25g candle nuts, macadamia nuts, cashew nuts or roasted peanuts (I used macadamia nuts)
1 tsp sesame seeds
60g shallots, roughly chopped
25g peeled ginger, roughly chopped
40g peeled galangal (or extra ginger), roughly chopped
15g peeled fresh turmeric, chopped, or 1tsp turmeric powder
3 fat lemongrass stalks, core chopped
20g garlic
2 medium-hot red chillies, seeded and roughly chopped
3 red bird's eye chillies, roughly chopped
1tsp shrimp paste
1tbsp palm sugar
1tsp salt
3 vegetable oil
juice of half a lime

Put the peppercorns, nutmeg, nuts and sesame seeds into a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Tip into a mini food processor, add all the other ingredients and blend everything into a very smooth paste.

TSRK tip
Got a chilli novice coming for dinner? Simply reduce the number of chillies. I included 1 red chilli and 1 bird's eye in my paste. My chilli novice was very happy with the heat of the dish. However, if I was cooking this for my mother I would probably only include 1 chilli and take out the seeds. She's pathetic with hot food.


  1. sounds lovely, Fi.
    i am in portugal at the moment, great place for fish and seafood, too!

  2. Oh, Kerstin, how I'm jealous. Portugal is definitely on my bucket list. Enjoy!

  3. Can't wait for u to cook this again......