I intended to grill the gindara over the weekend. But I got up so late, forgot to thaw anything from the freezer overnight and the kids would be home for lunch. They spent the morning preparing for the school fair and we will all be there later in the afternoon. So, there I was, sipping my first cup of coffee for the day at 11.45 a.m. and the kids were due home in about 30 minutes. I took the vacuum-packed gindara from the freezer, placed the pack in a bowl of water, prepared the vegetables, changed the soaking water every five minutes to thaw the fish faster… The kids were home no more than five minutes before lunch was ready.
Perhaps, I should mention too that all the veggies I used to cook this dish were bits and pieces left over from last night’s stir-fry (which I wasn’t able to take a photo of in the rush). And that the lemon juice was from one of the three lemons that I bought to make crostata di limone from The Celebrity Italian Table, a free digital cookbook from Barilla which I have Nicole of Pinch My Salt to thank for. The cookbook, with recipes by Mario Batali and table settings by David Tutera, is available for download until the end of the month. I’m no David Tutera fan but after poring over The Celebrity Italian Table, I realized that I can admire the guy so long as I don’t have to hear him talk. And although Mario Batali hates food bloggers, that doesn’t make him an incompetent chef nor a bad recipe inventor.
Now that we’re done with all the asides, let’s go to the recipe for the gindara fillets in coconut cream. It might seem like the tired old ginataang isda (fish in coconut cream) but the addition of lemon juice gives this dish a twist and kick that is truly refreshing.
First, a few notes.
Any white, firm, fleshy fish can be substituted for the gindara.
The bell pepper can be any color.
If you are not using a non-stick pan, you will need more cooking oil to cook the potatoes. Just pour off any excess after the potatoes are done.
Let the coconut cream simmer without allowing it to reach boiling point to prevent curdling.
The fish will be done in five to seven minutes. Do not overcook to prevent the fish from crumbling. It should be cooked through but not mushy.
Gindara fillets in coconut cream
- 500 grams gindara fillets
- 2 potatoes about 250 grams
- 1 whole garlic
- 1 onion I used red
- 1 plump and juicy tomato
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 handful snap peas
- 2 finger chilies
- 2 stalks celery
- 1/2 cup cut onion leaves to garnish
- 2 cups coconut cream (I used canned)
- patis (fish sauce) to taste
- juice of one lemon or about 3 tablespoonfuls of kalamansi juice
- 3 to 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- Peel the potatoes and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes.
- Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan. Cook the potatoes until done and the edges lightly browned. This will take about 10 minutes if the potatoes have been cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes. While the potatoes fry, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Crush and peel the garlic. Mince.
- Peel the onion and slice finely.
- Dice the tomato.
- Trim the celery sticks and cut diagonally, about half an inch thick.
- Core the bell pepper, scape off the seeds and veins and dice.
- Trim the ends and sides of the chicharo.
- Cut the finger chilis into 2 to 3 portions.
- Cut the gindara fillets into bite-size pieces, roughly the same size as the potatoes.
- When the potatoes are done, add the garlic, onion and tomato to the pan and cook for a few seconds. Next, add the celery, chicharo, chilis and bell pepper. Stir fry for a few minutes. Add the fish. Cook, tossing, until the fish starts to turn opaque. Pour in the coconut cream, season with fish sauce and stir. Simmer until the fish is done.
- Turn off the heat, pour in the lemon or kalamansi juice, stir and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with onion leaves.
- Serve hot with rice.