Keralan Fish in a Parcel


This dish is memorable for the heady, fiery fragrance which hits you as you open the steaming parcel. Let’s face it, pepper, ginger and chilli are a potent mix, so this is probably not for the faint-hearted. Plain rice and cold beer are what’s needed.


  • sea bream 4, each weighing about 400 g/14 oz
  • limes juice of 2
  • sea salt flakes 1 tsp
  • shallots 3–4, finely chopped
  • green chilli ½, finely chopped
  • ginger root 4 cm/ in piece, finely chopped
  • black peppercorns tbsp, crushed
  • cayenne pepper 1–2 tsp
  • turmeric powder tsp
  • curry leaves from 2 sprigs, about 15 leaves
  • coconut oil 2 tbsp

To Garnish

  • lime wedges
  • red onion thinly sliced into rings


Clean and scale the fish, leaving the heads on. Using a sharp knife, make a couple of diagonal slashes on each side of the fish. Put them in a dish large enough to take them in a single layer.

Combine the lime juice and sea salt flakes and pour over the fish, rubbing it all over the skin and into the slits. Leave to marinate for 15 minutes while you prepare the spice paste.

Put the shallots, chilli, ginger, crushed peppercorns, cayenne, turmeric and curry leaves into a blender and whizz to a paste. Smear the paste all over the fish, rubbing it well in.

Brush four large pieces of thick kitchen foil with the coconut oil. Place a fish on each piece of foil, along with any spice paste left in the dish. Wrap up securely and leave for 10–15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 240°C/475°F/Gas 9. Put a baking tray in the oven to heat.

Bake the fish for 10 minutes, then turn the parcels over and cook for another 5 minutes.

Open the parcels, inhale the spicy fragrance, then carefully tip the fish into a warm serving dish. Alternatively, put the parcels directly onto serving plates and let people open their own.

Serve scattered with lime wedges and red onion rings.