“Each of the components of this dish is delicious — the marinated, grilled fish, spicy mellow salsa and toasted tortillas. Together they sing with flavour and texture. For an authentic Mexican flavour, the achiote paste and Guajillo chillies are well worth seeking out – find them in Spanish delis or specialty stores – and Gerado likes to use his favourite, Pacifico beer, but any pilsner-style beer will do.” Maeve O'Meara, Food Safari Fire
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tomato, cut into wedges
- 1 tbsp achiote paste
- juice of ½ orange
- juice of ½ lime
- 2 Guajillo chillies, soaked for 20 minutes in hot water, drained
- 190 ml (6½ fl oz/¾ cup) Pacifico beer (about half a 375 ml bottle)
- 2 roma (plum) tomatoes
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 3 habanero chillies
- handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves
- 1 whole snapper, or other firm white-fleshed fish, gutted but not scaled
- 1 tsp garlic oil
- fresh corn tortillas
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To make the marinade for the fish, heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sweat the onion and garlic in a pan until translucent and softened. Add the tomato wedges and achiote paste and mix well. Add the orange and lime juice, the softened chillies and the beer, and stir well to dissolve the achiote. Blend with a stick blender until smooth and continue to cook for around 30 minutes until the paste is thick enough to coat the fish. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
To make the salsa, place the tomatoes, onion and chillies on a charcoal grill and cook for about 10 minutes until slightly blackened, turning over to ensure each side is cooked. Remove from the grill and pound in a mortar and pestle until the salsa is a chunky texture. Stir through the coriander leaves.
Cut the fish into two halves along the backbone. Brush the garlic oil on the inside of the fish and season with pepper. Paint the marinade over liberally (on flesh side only) and place in a wire basket (brushed with oil to prevent sticking). Grill over charcoal, starting with the skin side down. Turn and baste frequently for about 8 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
Remove from the grill and flake the fish, removing the bones. Serve with salsa and warm tortillas.
Recipe from Food Safari Fire by Maeve O'Meara (Hardie Grant, hbk, $55). Photography by Toufic Charabati.