Slice the fish into pieces 5mm (⅕ in) thick and put into a non-reactive bowl with three-quarters of the citrus juice, mix well and leave to sit in the fridge, covered, for 2 hours. This ‘chemically’ cooks the fish.
Drain the fish in a colander and return to a clean bowl. Add the salt, chilli, coconut milk, pepper and remaining juice. Mix well and return to the fridge. You can now leave this for up to 6 hours before finishing the dish.
Just before serving, peel and de-seed the cucumber and cut it into chunks. Add these and the watercress to the fish and mix well; test for seasoning and serve immediately.
Skate is a much underrated fish in Britain and one which is usually seen pan-fried with capers and burnt butter. Nothing wrong with that of course, but, well, it’s just another fish. In fact it’s as versatile as any but with the advantage of being quite different in texture and shape. There are two schools of thought on when to cook skate. One is to wait until it smells slightly of ammonia; the other, which I favour, is to use it as fresh as possible – within two days of being caught.
© 1997 Peter Gordon. All rights reserved.