Whole roasted snapper

The original fast food: a whole fish, filled with pan-Asian flavours, given a quick blast in the oven.


I’ve written quite a few fish and seafood recipes but, strangely, never published one for a whole fish. What’s even more inexplicable is that this is the way I cook fish at home more than any other. It’s fast and loose – there are weights and measures below as a guide, although I never really use them as accuracy is both unnecessary and runs against the grain of the casual nature of this kind of cooking. Maybe it’s simply that it’s so easy and has become so commonplace in my kitchen that the idea of sharing it never occurred to me. Until now, at least.

This is my favourite way of cooking whole, firm-fleshed fish, and snapper, to me, is supreme among them. A more delicate fish, like John Dory, needs more finesse and can’t be directly exposed to the heat of the oven. (For a gentle way to cook fish, see my John Dory with fennel and saffron.) But here, fresh and whole, robust snapper is more than up to the task.

Alongside this medley of pan-Asian flavours, I like to have some whole-egg mayo spiked with a squirt of wasabi paste. A handful of potato wedges (made this way – just omit the vinegar), cooked on the same tray as the fish and sprinkled with crunchy sea salt, never go astray, either. For side salads that work beautifully with this, I'd go for the sweet and sour side salad or the joyfully green avocado, lentil and lime salad.

Whole roasted snapper


For 2.

600g (1½ pound) snapper, scaled and cleaned
1 spring onion (green onion)
1 clove garlic
5cm (2 inch) piece of ginger
1 lime
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped

Set your oven to 200°C (400°F).

Shred the spring onion, garlic and ginger into fine matchsticks and place in a small bowl. Add the sesame oil, mirin and coriander and toss together.

Slash the fish in three or four places on both sides. Stuff the cavity, loosely, with most of the filling mixture and rub the rest – carefully, as snapper fins are sharp – over the skin, pushing some into the cuts.

Slice half the lime, thinly, and tuck the slices into the cavity.

Arrange a rack on a baking sheet, to lift the fish up, and lay the snapper on it. Roast for 30 minutes, until skin is crips and the flesh is cooked and flakes easily with a fork.

Spritz with the remaining half of the lime and scatter with a few more coriander leaves. Serve immediately.