I love a fish stew, but it never occurred to me that I could use a base of coconut milk until 6 months ago. I realise now that every culture has their own version of fish stew, from Smoked Haddock Chowder to the French Bouillabaisse and from Brown Stew Fish to Thai Green Curry Salmon (soon coming to the blog). I could go on and on, I love fish! So this dish starts off resembling the preparation of Brown Stew Fish, an infamous in the Caribbean with virtually the same ingredients, with the addition of coconut milk and okra to garnish. Yes the okra is optional, which is why I keep it whole here, so the haters can pick them out, but I actually think they work well in the coconut sauce which is created. In terms of fish, try to use a meaty fish that holds its form like Cod or Bream. I have used Red Bream here. And be careful to let the fish cool down completely before transferring it to the sauce you will make. There are three stages to this dish: marinade, frying and stewing (stewing?). Be patient and enjoy the works of your hard labour by serving this with either plain rice or what we call Provision (boiled yam, potatoes, dumpling, cassava, edoes…) .
Coconut Fish Stew
Prep Time: 30 mins Cooking Time: 45 mins
For the Preparation and Marinade
2 lbs Bream or Snapper fish (cut into 3)
Juice of 2 limes or lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 medium onion grated
1/2 scotch bonnet, finely minced
3 spring onions – roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic crushed
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
5 whole allspice berries crushed
2 tbsp of Old Bay Fish Seasoning (or any other fish seasoning)
For the Frying:
Flour for dusting
For the Stew:
1 can of coconut milk
Half medium onion finely sliced
3 crushed garlic
Few sprigs of Thyme
1 whole Scotch Bonnet
Salt to taste
1 Sweet Red Pepper – sliced
5-8 whole Okra fingers
The Cleaning and Marinade
Trim and scale the fish and cut into 2-3 inch pieces. Then rub the juice of the lime over the fish being careful not to break up the flesh. This should take around 10 minutes. Rinse the fish with water in a bowl and drain the water away, rinse again if necessary. Then take all the seasoning (except the whole scotch bonnet pepper, sweet pepper, oil and okra) and marinate for about 30 minutes, for the best results marinade overnight, you can add more lime juice at this stage if you wish.
Place the oil to heat in a pan on medium/high heat. Then shaking off any excess seasoning roll the fish pieces in the flour until they are completely coated (set the remaining fish marinade aside for later). Then add the fish to the hot oil and allow it to cook about 2-3 minutes on each side. Then set aside to drain off any excess oil on paper towels.
In another deep pan sauté the onion and garlic for a few minutes, then add the thyme and okra and red peppers. Then add the scotch bonnet and stir. This should take no more than 3 minutes. You can also add any of the remaining fish marinade at this stage. Then pour in the coconut milk: turn the heat down to medium so that the milk starts to bubble gently. Then taste for flavour and season if required. After about 3 minutes, place the fried fish into the pot with the sauce. You should try not to turn the fish over, instead spoon heaps of the sauce over the fish as if basting it.