Coconut Fish With Cucumber Salad

The last month or two have been eventful for Joel and me, with so many opportunities and the odd hurdle come our way.  It makes for an enriching and interesting time. Our new house we are having built is finally taking shape and we had our first walk through on Friday.  It was incredible to stand in my kitchen and take in the view I will have everyday  from the kitchen island.  I have planned this house so thoroughly that I can stand in the empty frame and visualise where everything will go – from the cookbooks, the big family calender and even where the Christmas tree will go in about 8 months time.

The icing on the cake this week was that I got my dream job.  After many productive years of being a stay at home mum, and I mean years, the perfect job came up and I just had to apply.  It is to be the Kitchen Specialist within the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program for our local school.

Stephanie Alexander is food royalty and I am beyond excited that this opportunity has come my way.  I know this humble little food blog helped advance my bid for the position so I am very grateful I just started it.  I didn’t know if anyone would read it but it wasn’t the point.  At first it was just out of pure enjoyment to put pen to paper, so to speak, and rant about something I’m so passionate about.  But lately I am spurred on by people just relating back to me and telling me their favourite recipes or telling me what they cooked from Tea For Six and how their kids gobbled it up.

Enough of my soliloquy, and more about this sublime Coconut Fish with Cucumber Salad.  It is based on a very simple Bill Granger recipe from his book ‘Bill’s Open Kitchen’ but I added a bit more of a hit to the salad by way of garlic, ground coriander root and tamarind.  If you aren’t a confident fish cooker then this recipe for poaching a fillet of fish is an easy technique to learn.  The most basic method would be steaming or pan frying a fillet of fish but with poaching you are less likely to really dry out the fish if it is overcooked so it is more forgiving.

Once the fillets are cooked it is a delicate procedure to lift them out of the poaching liquid and onto the mounds of rice on each plate without them flaking and falling apart.  But that is why you mound the salad right on top as it hides any imperfections!

For the kids I gave them a scoop of rice topped with the fish and half a lime to squeeze over.  Some of them had a spoonful or two of the poaching liquid drizzled over for the rice to suck up.  Then they helped themselves to the undressed salad, some more enthusiastically then others.  Joel and I had rice with generous spoonfuls of poaching liquid, the fish and the remainder of the salad which I tossed with the spicy dressing.

It was incredible.  The fish was so delicate and the salad was so lively.  The contrast of textures and flavours makes this dish a recipe truly worth trying.

coconut fish with cucumber salad

(based on a Bill Granger recipe from ‘Bill’s Open Kitchen’)

4 x 175g fillets of firm white fish eg. snapper or barramundi
250ml chicken stock
1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon caster sugar
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk of lemongrass, bruised (bash it few times with a pestle)
1 small red chilli, sliced in half length ways
steamed rice to serve
extra limes to squeeze over to taste

cucumber salad

1 large chilli, seeded and finely sliced on diagonal
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
20 snow peas, finely sliced (blanch these first if you prefer but I like them just as they are)
2 Lebanese cucumbers, halved lengthwise and sliced on the diagonal


1 long red chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 coriander roots, scraped and chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind water

In a large, wide pot place the stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, lime leaves, lemongrass and chilli.  Bring to the boil and leave for 5 – 10 minutes whilst you get on preparing the salad below.  Then reduce the heat to a very low simmer.  The liquid should just move slightly at a simmer with no bubbles forming.  Gently place the fish in the simmering liquid, half cover the pot with a lid and leave for a few minutes.  You will know the fish is cooked when it can be easily flaked.  Carefully remove the fish.

The poaching liquid can be reduced further by bringing back to the boil for another 5 minutes then strained.  Squeeze a little lime juice in to taste.  I serve the poaching liquid as is because I’m impatient.

For the salad dressing, pound up the chillies, garlic, coriander root and sugar in a mortar with a pestle to a fine paste.  Add fish sauce, lime juice and tamarind water.  Taste and adjust if need be.  Toss this with the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Serve mounds of steamed rice in shallow bowls.  Drizzle over spoonfuls of the poaching liquid then carefully place the fish on and top with a generous serve of the salad.

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9 Responses to Coconut Fish With Cucumber Salad

  1. Anna says:

    Congrats Natalie!!! Firstly the fish looks beautiful and I look forward to cooking it!!! But wow dream job is right!!! Sounds fantastic, am very jealous and can’t wait to hear how it’s going!!!!! Good on you !!!

  2. Anissa says:

    Hi Natalie,
    Congratulations!! I can not think of a person more suited to this role. I can not tell you how much your blog helps me decided what to cook my family. Whenever I’m stuck I think Umm… I wonder what has Natalie been feeding her tribe. I always find something on your blog!! I completely agree I’m so excited that the school is doing this fantasic program! Well Done!

  3. cassie says:

    Oh yum, I’ll be putting this one on my lunchtime menu!!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Congratulations! It really is the perfect job for you.
    (And selfishly I hope you’ll still have time to occasionally post here. :o) )

  5. Di Backhouse says:

    Just discovered this blog Natalie and realise we know a mutual person, Sharolyn! Wow, what a small world! I actually came online to find Bill’s corn fritters and discovered your site. Thanks for some wonderful ideas to feed the kids, I’ll be returning! 🙂

    • natalie says:

      Wonderful Di! I suspect we might have a few more mutual friends then. Kirsty, Megan and Cat???

      • Di Backhouse says:

        Yes if you’re taking about Cat B and Megan D then I do know them! I’m not too familiar with Kirsty but I assume you mean shaz’s sister? I’ve been scrolling through your blog. Such lovely recipes and you take great photos too. Am trying the pumpkin and meatball risotto next! (corn fritters were a hit with the 3 yr old)

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