Updated: Sep 4
The idea behind this recipe was to create a lightly cured white fish with a classic citrus ponzu sauce. Curing fish dates way back as its been a method for preserving seafood for destinations that live far from the sea. The base of the cure I used was beetroot as it works perfectly with seafood and citrus flavours. As for the other elements, I wanted to play with a few neutral flavours such as daikon and avacado to create different textures and add some balance to the dish. As this fish is cured this recipe is best done over 2 days, therefore, I will break this up into day 1 and 2. Let's get straight to it!
Prep Time 45mins / Curing time 2 days
To serve 3-4
Fish and Cure:
1 whole red snapper or sea bass or 1/2 side salmon
2 cooked beetroots
1 lime zest
1 lemon zest
1 Granny Smith apple
20ml rice vinegar
40g sea salt
40g white sugar
5g bonito flakes
50ml light soy
20ml ponzu seasoning
10ml rice vinegar
10g white sugar
3 ripe avacados
30ml rapeseed oil
pinch sea salt
1 lime zest and juice
1/2 daikon radish
Fish and Cure:
Let's begin with the cure for the fish, in a mixing bowl grate 2 cooked beets, peel and grate 1 apple, the zest of 1 lime and 1 lemon then add 50mls of cooking sake, 20ml of rice vinegar, 40g of sea salt and finally 40g of white sugar. Mix the cure well and place to one side for now. What will happen as we have added the salt and sugar is the beets will start to break down and bring out the moisture.
2. Now that we have the cure we can move onto preparing the fish, I always try to do this myself but if your not confident in doing this skip this next stage and ask your fish monger to do this for you. Key things to look for when buying fresh fish are clear unsunken eyes, a fresh seafood aroma, deep red gills and a stiff firm fish. For this recipe I used a snapper, however, salmon, bass or bream would also work perfectly. Begin by scaling the fish and removing the guts if unremoved. Now slice a long score just around the head, then score the fish lengthways along the spine to the tail. Next going along the spine keeping the knife at a 45°c angle cut long slices going against the bone to remove off the fillet. When removed turn over the fish and repeat the same method for the other side to give us the two fillets.
3. Now that we have two fillets the next step is to use tweezers and carefully remove the pin bones. When removed place the fillet skin side down onto a chopping board then make a small incision along the tail part of the fillet. Then keeping the knife at a 45° angle cut towards the skin to remove taking care not to remove any flesh from the fillet. Repeat for both fillets then remove any excess fat on the fillets if there is any, then when ready we can now begin the curing process.
4. Now the fish is ready we can start to cure, begin by adding 1/2 of the cure that we made up earlier into the bottom of a plate or container then evenly spread out. Next place the fillets over the cure then pour and evenly coat the remaining 1/2 of the cure to completely cover the fillets. To ensure a deeper cure cover the fish with clingfilm then place a small weight over the top. Allow to cure in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours or overnight.
5. To make the ponzu start by placing a saucepan onto a high heat then when hot add 50mls of mirin and 50mls of sake. Cook out the alcohol for 1 minute then when ready turn the heat down to a simmer. Next add 10g of kombu, 50 mls of light soy, 10g of white sugar and 10 mls of rice wine. Continue to simmer for 4-5 minutes then pull from the heat. Now off the heat, finish the ponzu by adding 5g of bonito flakes, the juice of 2 lemons and 1 orange and 20mls of ponzu seasoning. Allow the ponzu to steap for 15-20 minutes.
6. To finish the ponzu, pass through a fine strainer and allow to cool. When chilled store in the refrigerator overnight along with the cured fish. The great thing about ponzu is that it can be made even a week before as the longer left the more the sauce is able to mature, therefore its worth making a batch and can be kept for months.
Now onto the 2nd part of this recipe, by this point the fish should have cured and the ponzu would have had chance to develop and mature. To make a simple clean avocado puree slice 3 avocados into half then remove the seed. Use a spoon to scoop out the avocado into a food processor and pulse for 2-3 minutes until smooth. When smooth add a pinch of salt the zest and juice of 1 lime and 30mls of rapeseed oil to balance out the flavour. Adjust the seasoning if needed then set to one side.
Herbs and Daikon:
2. To give the dish a few extra textures and peppery notes start by choosing a few peppery leaves to go with the dish. Here I used some nasturtiums and its flowers as they are just about still in peak season at the time of making this dish plus they look good. For the daikon radish wash and peel then slice half into thin slices and the other half simply grate to add two variants. For the daikon slices I lightly pickled them in a 30/70 mix of sugar to rice wine, and for the grated daikon just leave it grated as it is as it works perfectly like this with ponzu. This stage is just what I though would work well with this recipe, however, feel free to add various other salad components.
3. Now to finish off the dish, going back to the fish, at this point the fillets should be much firmer with a deep red colour from the cure. Start by wiping off some of the beetroot cure from the fish then rinse under cold water for a minute or two to remove off some of the salt content left from the cure. Place the cured fish onto kitchen paper and pat dry. Next place onto a chopping board and slice the fish at a slight angle into thin slices almost the same as slicing sashimi.
4. Now we are ready to serve, this dish is best served cold and you can serve this up however you like as long as you have all the different elements on the plate then all will be fine. What I did, however is I went with piping a few random dots large and small of the avocado puree, then scattered the fish around the puree. Next I added a few slices of the pickled daikon and added a small amount of the grated over the cured fish. Finish with a few herbs/flowers and finally drizzle a generous amount of ponzu all over. Have fun with this recipe and I'm sure you will love it!
As for what type of fish to use I would have personally preferred to use salmon for this recipe, however, when buying the fish for this recipe the snapper was the best in the market so naturally I went with that. When choosing to eat fish raw then I would allow the freshest to dictate as to what to use. Take this recipe with a pinch of salt (no pun intended) as a base on how to cure fish or simply just on how to make a classic ponzu sauce. Have fun with this one, hopefully gave you a few ideas and peace as always!