Grouper fish has got to be one of my favourites because it is flaky, holds firm when cooked, and absorbs flavour really well. It is also versatile, so stands up well to all methods of cookery. I got this particular one from under Falomo bridge in Victoria Island, Lagos – just opposite the Law School. It was slightly smaller than the massive ones I usually buy, so I got this one for about N3,000. The price really depends on a) the size of the fish and b) your haggling or pricing skills. When I first went there, someone tried to sell me a whole grouper for N12,000. Those were the days when the dollar to naira rate was roughly $1 to N150. So I said to her, ‘Nearly $100 for a fish? Is the fish made of gold? Will it offer me salvation?’ She looked at me and laughed. Then came the back and forth, back and forth in which she accused me of wanting her children to starve. Never the less, we made friends, and I am now her regular customer. She no longer tries to shaft me. Well she does, but when I call her bluff, she backs down quickly and gets on with it.
I ended up buying this fish and making up this recipe because I was invited to a barbecue and asked to bring something along. You guys know me already. I have a penchant for wild ideas and many times, I admit, I am completely over the top. Most people, on being invited to a party, grab a bottle of wine and call it a day. And I do that too sometimes, but I really felt like something special that day, hence the whole fish. I brined and seasoned it in advance with a potent mix of spices. Recipe and pictures below. Enjoy!
For the brine:
3 litres of clean drinking water
1 large grouper or any other large whole fish
1 small handful of salt
1 small handful of sugar
A few black peppercorns, roughly cracked
1 cinnammon stick or 1 star anise star
Half an onion, sliced
For the sauce:
2 fingers of ginger, grated
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 orange, juiced
A good dash of soy sauce
1 or 2 scotch bonnet peppers, chopped
1 teaspoon of orange marmalade
1 teaspoon of honey
a handful of chopped parsley
a handful of chopped coriander
a good glug of olive oil
- Wash the fish thoroughly with clean water (I get them to gut and scale it for me at the market – ain’t no need for all that elbow grease).
- To make the brine, pour the water and all the brine ingredients into a bowl, swirl around until the salt and sugar are melted, pop the fish in, and leave for 3 hours.
- If you don’t have the time or inclination to brine the fish, then just rub the skin all over with a handful of sea salt and a handful of freshly ground black pepper.
- Barbecue this over smouldering hot coals for about 20 minutes each side, to make sure it is fully cooked.
- Now to make the dressing, put all the ingredients into an old jam jar and give it a good shake. That is literally it – dressing made!
- Once the fish is cooked, transfer it onto a serving tray and then pour over the dressing.
- Allow the fish to absorb the dressing for five minutes (you can cover the fish with foil so it doesn’t go cold) and then serve and enjoy!
I love this recipe because the flavours really pop. It makes the fish taste so much more exotic than your average barbecued fish. What is your favourite way to enjoy grouper fish? What’s your favourite fish marinade? Do share in the comments below.