Fish presented in its natural shape

Fish presented in its natural shape

Green Pickled Peaches
Chris Chen

I see this recipe as celebrating the natural shape of the fish, rather than trying to cut, shape, mince or add things to it in such a way as to fit the cook’s vision. The plan is to serve half a side of dory per person. So, starting with two large fillets which are whole sides of the fish, these can both be separated out along the middle into two smaller pieces, essentially with your fingers. Take the skin off the fish for this purpose.

For the vadouvan sauce


Quantity Ingredient
1 boiling chicken, chopped int o small pieces
250g chicken wings, chopped
250g chicken feet, chopped
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
olive oil, for frying
100g unsalted butter, for frying
1 brown onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/4 garlic head, chopped and bruised
2cm piece of galangal, chopped
3cm piece of ginger, chopped
2cm piece of fresh turmeric, chopped
2 tablepoons vadouvan spice mix
2 tablepoons brandy
1.5 litres light chicken s tock
3 kaffir lime leaves
20g tamarind pulp, soaked in 100 ml of water, strained
40 curry leaves, taken off the stem
15g kuzu starch, (see note)

For the spiced onion mixture

Quantity Ingredient
100ml peanut oil
10 curry leaves
1 brown onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon vadouvan spice mix
1/2 lime, juiced

For the seafood

Quantity Ingredient
2 x 200g john dory fillets, (each a whole side of the fish)
100g cooked spanner crab or mud crab meat
mixed fresh small basil leaves, coriander leaves and borage flowers, to garnish


  1. Make the vadouvan sauce:
  2. Coat the chopped chicken, wings and feet with the ground turmeric and marinate overnight. Next day, heat some oil and butter in a large pot and fry the onion, carrot, celery and garlic with some salt until golden and soft. Add the galangal, ginger and turmeric and cook for about 5 minutes until fragrant. Add the spice mix.
  3. In a separate pan sear the chicken in oil. Combine the brandy with 2 tablespoons of water and use to deglaze the pan, scraping up all the brown sticky bits. Transfer to the pot with the cooking vegetables. Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Add the kaffir lime leaves and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the tamarind water and simmer for another 30 minutes. Drop in the curry leaves and leave off the heat for about 30 minutes to infuse. Finally, press the contents of the pot through a coarse sieve, then pass this through a fine chinois.
  4. Make the spiced onion mixture:
  5. Heat the peanut oil in a saucepan to 180°C. Put the curry leaves in a sieve and sit this over a heatproof container. Pour the oil over the leaves, into the container. Repeat this process two or three more times, until the leaves turn a dark translucent green. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Use this fragrant peanut oil to cook the onion in a pan over medium heat until golden and soft. Add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic also turns golden. Add the spice mix and heat for a minute or so. Add salt and lime juice to taste, which should be distinctly tart.
  6. Cook the seafood:
  7. When ready to serve the dish, remove the skin from the dory fillets and divide each fillet in half along the natural ‘spine’ line, giving 4 pieces. Steam these over slowly simmering water for 8–10 minutes until the flesh would be soft enough to flake. Or brush the fillets with a little oil and bake in a preheated 160°C oven for about 10 minutes. Before removing the fish from the pan or oven, spoon a quarter of the crab meat onto each fillet to warm the crab meat through before serving.
  8. Finish the sauce:
  9. Start with 300 ml of the cooled vadouvan sauce in a saucepan. Take out 2 tablespoons and mix with the kuzu starch until it dissolves. Stir back into the sauce in the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes until the mixture is thickened, then keep it warm. Place a dory fillet with its crab on each plate, arrange some of the spiced onion on the plate and spoon the sauce over generously. Arrange some of the fresh herbs on each plate and serve at once.

To make vadouvan spice mix

  • Combine 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds,  tablespoon of Indian coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds,  tablespoon of dill seeds, 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon of cardamom pods and 1 tablespoon of white peppercorns. Roast the spices until fragrant in a dry frying pan over medium–high heat, or in a preheated 180°C oven. When cool, grind to a fine powder. Store the leftover mix in the freezer for up to 3 months.
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