Ok, before you think I have gone bonkers, hear me out. I was sitting on the couch with my better half eating this amazing slab of chocolate infused with liquorice from Cocoafair (our chocolate supplier at Frères Bistro), while the better half was eating broccoli drizzled with omega fish oil (which explains the weight difference between the two of us!). I still had the lingering taste of the licorice chocolate in my mouth when along came a fork aimed at my face piled with broccoli and said fish oil, to which I opened my mouth for its delivery, and BOOM – I had a combination of flavours in my mouth like never before, which is how this dish came about. The next day I went into Cocoafair and bought another slab of the liquorice chocolate and met the Executive Chocolatier, Thelo van Wyk. I told him about my crazy idea, which was received with wide eyes. He kindly gave me a little of the liquorice root powder that they use in the chocolate to enhance the flavour slightly, which was needed if I wanted the liquorice flavour to come through properly after the chocolate had been melted and combined with other ingredients. The result was unlike anything I’ve tasted before, and in a really good way. Here is the recipe for you to try for yourself – serves 4:
- 800g of fresh fish (I used skate, but think that this recipe will work well with any fish that is quite strong in flavour to ensure it doesn’t get overpowered by the rest of the flavours)
- 400ml coconut milk
- 100g liquorice chocolate (45% Vouverture) *1
- 1/2 teaspoon liquorice root powder *2
- 3 whole grapefruit, juiced
- 1 vanilla pod, sliced in half lengthways (use only half)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 300ml fish stock *3
- Blanched asparagus & broccoli – enough for four servings
*1 – As far as I know, Cocoafair (click on link to find their details) are the only ones that do this chocolate. If you can’t get to them, just use a good quality 60 or 70% cocoa chocolate, then increase the liquorice root powder to a full teaspoon.
*2 – You can usually find liquorice root powder at good health stores. Failing this, buy good quality liquorice (about 1/4 cup worth), place it in half a cup of water for a few hours, then simmer until the liquorice has dissolved.
*3 – You can easily buy ready made fish stock from most supermarkets, or when buying your fish, ask the fish monger to fillet the fish and keep the bones to make your own.
Start off by portioning the fish, then add to a container with the fish stock. Allow this to marinade in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the elements of the dish.
To make the liquorice chocolate, add the coconut milk to a saucepan. Put on medium heat until it starts to simmer, then remove off the heat and add your roughly chopped chocolate. Leave for a minute, then start slowly stirring with a wooden spoon until the chocolate has completely melted. Add a pinch of salt and the liquorice root powder. Allow to stand in a cool area for the chocolate to set and thicken the sauce.
Next, add two teaspoons of sugar, grapefruit juice and vanilla to another saucepan. Simmer and reduce until it resembles a syrup consistency, then strain through a fine sieve. Push the sauce through with a spoon to ensure you get all of the vanilla goodness into the syrup.
In another saucepan (yes, quite a few dishes will need to be washed after making this dish), add 1 tbsp of butter and a tbsp of fish stock with the blanched veggies. Quickly bring to the boil to reheat the veggies then set aside.
To cook the fish, add a tbsp of butter to a non-stick frying pan. Remove your fish from the fish stock, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. If you are keeping the skin on, score it, get the pan really hot then place the fish skin side down first. Allow to crisp then turn the fish over, add a splash of the fish stock and cook until desired temperature (salmon you could do medium, white fish preferably cook through). Remove from heat, cover with a lid / foil and set aside.
You can use your imagination when plating, as I always say, but try and keep the two sauces separate in order for your guests to combine the flavours themselves. It also just looks prettier. Alternatively, the pic below is how I have plated it.