Spiced Roast Stuffed Snapper with Okra

Inspired by Ilias’ Fish (formerly Dagon’s)

West Africa and the Caribbean share a love of fish. Cooked and eaten whole, the fish’s head and tail are seen as delicacies. This means the fish must be very fresh and a lot of trust placed in your fishmonger, which is no problem in Brixton Village.

Recently taken over, Ilias’ Fish used to be known as Dagon’s, and was run for many years by the larger-than-life character of Gareth Hodges in his flat cap. He has now moved on to less fishy business, but this idea for spiced roast snapper stuffed with okra and lemon came from him. I’ve given it a bit of a tweak each time I’ve made it, but I still associate it with him.

Ingredients

  • 4 snapper, gutted and cleaned
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5cm fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chilli flakes
  • 4 teaspoons dried crayfish
  • 2 lemons, zested, then sliced into 8 slices
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 8 pods okra, sliced
  • salt and black pepper

Method

I use either red snapper or its more glamorous cousin, the rainbow snapper for this dish. Pick ones with bright eyes and shiny gills and ask the fishmonger to clean and descale them. Give the fish a quick rinse and then slash three or four cuts in the skin on either side of each one.

Combine the garlic, ginger, chilli, 2 teaspoons of the dried crayfish, 2 teaspoons of the lemon zest and some salt and pepper with the vegetable oil to make a paste. Rub this all over the snappers and marinate in the fridge for up to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put each fish on a large sheet of foil on a baking tray. Toss the sliced okra and whole lemon slices with the remaining dried crayfish and lemon zest and season well. Carefully stuff this into the cavity of the fish – it doesn’t need to be tidy, just generously filled. Wrap the fish up neatly in the foil, making sure there are no gaps for the steam to escape out of. Repeat with each fish so you have four individual parcels.

Put your foil parcels on the baking tray into the oven, and roast for 25–30 minutes depending how large your fish is. The skin will be crisped enough to eat while the flesh is moist and flavoursome. The okra will be soft and tender.

Serve with the pickled garden eggs and cho cho.