Fish steamed in banana leaves with mint, coriander and coconut.

This is my favourite fish dish from South India. The fish is steamed  in banana leaves which are as rare as Dragon’s teeth in Devon. Luckily, banana leaves freeze well so I pounce on them when I see them turn up (occasionally) in the Asian store in Exeter.  This week, when I went to the Oriental wholesaler they had run out but for a mere half a leaf accidentally left in their freezer. I usually wrap the fish in banana leaf parcels for each diner but the lack of leaf meant that I had to roll what little I had around all the fish and bake it rather than make parcels for every person.  In conclusion, I feel steaming or barbecuing imparts a better flavour and stronger perfume than baking, but this recipe can stand up without without using the leaves at all.

Serve it with lots of white rice or as part of a curry feast.


3 Cod or haddock fillets (de-boned)

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

1 teasp turmeric

1 lemon, juice of (can use lime)

100g desiccated coconut + a drop of oil and a splash of hot water (or use fresh grated coconut.

2-5 green chillies, sliced finely

Banana Leaves

Banana Leaves (Photo credit: Hanoi Mark)

2 tsp mango chutney

1 handful fresh mint leaves, then chop them finely

1 handful fresh coriander leaves, then chop them finely

1 tsp whole cumin seeds

5g fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 clove garlic

1 tsp tamarind (optional)

Banana leaves, blanched in boiling water


1. Mix together the salt, turmeric and lemon juice. Pour over the fish and leave to marinate for at least one hour or more

2. Meanwhile,  rehydrate the desiccated coconut by adding a splash of boiling water (better less than more, don’t drown it) from the kettle and a few drops of vegetable oil. Mix it around with a spoon. Alternatively, grate fresh coconut.

3. Place the coconut in a bowl and add the green chillies, mango chutney, mint and coriander leaves, ginger, garlic and tamarind. Mix together.

4. Blanche the banana leaves with boiling water from the kettle. This cleans the leaves and also softens the fibres which helps stop splitting when you wrap the fish.

5. Place the marinated fish on banana leaves and cover the fish with the mixture.

6. Wrap in banana leaves and steam or bake or grill on a BBQ for about 10-15 minutes.

7. Unwrap and serve on the banana leaves with steaming white rice.



Exmouth mussels cooked in cider with a dash of clotted cream

Mussels from the fast flowing river Ex, cooked with chopped shallots, vintage cider and a dash of clotted cream, all sopped up with delicious sourdough bread –  what could be more Devonium?

We returned from Powderham Food Festival laden with booty.  Three kilos of fresh mussels came from The Exmouth Mussel Company who use an innovative self-fluidising elevator to lift the mussels rather than traditional dredging which damages the sea bed. The elevator is low impact, allowing the maintenance of the “underwater rainforests” of the Ex. The cider

was vintage and bottle fermented, from Yarde, a Devon company that make delicious drinks  from unsprayed Devon fruit. The bread, oh the bread, from Red Dog Bakery,  in Black Torrington, mid Devon, is worth driving miles to find. In fact, I’ve just had to stop writing and go and get a piece to eat right now. I’m dipping it  in some peppery olive oil with a pinch of gray, mineral-ly  sea salt I bought back from France. Mmmm. Anyway, back to the mussels.  We invited some friends and made a simple meal.  The mussels were already cleaned by the Exmouth Mussel company (no fiddling around with beards) and packed in a modern tray system that  keeps them fresher, only 5 shells out of 3 kilos had expired with open mouths. I then soaked and rinsed them in a couple of changes of water over the period of an hour. Then all you need is:

3 kilos of mussels and a big pot (served 3 adults 5 children)

A nob of butter

3 banana shallots or 9 small shallots peeled and chopped finely

3/4 of a 75cl bottle of Vintage Yarde Cider 

A spinkling of salt

A tablespoon  or so of clotted cream

A good handful of chopped flat leaf parsley


Melt the butter in the pan, add chopped shallots and saute for a few minutes until the shallots have softened.  Pour in the cider and heat to barely a simmer. Add the mussels and place a lid on the pan as they come to a boil.  Wait for 3-4 minutes and then holding the lid firmly in place, shake the pan. Replace on the heat and cook for a further 3 minutes. After this time take of the lid and check that the mussels have opened. If not put the lid back on and give them a bit longer and a bit more shaking.  When ready, scoop them out into a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add cream to the remaining soup and stir, taste, add salt if needed. Finally, add the chopped parsley and pour over the mussels. Serve with plenty of bread, napkins and bowls for the shells. Enjoy, we did.