Yoghurt, lime and chilli steamed sea bass

Over the last three or four months I have spent a fair amount of time looking into recipes from the Indian sub-continent. One of the combinations / methods that has particularly interested me has been the steaming of fish in a curd or yoghurt marinade. It’s mostly a Calcutta thing, by the looks of it. Though I’m sure I’ve come across similar things when looking at Sri Lankan and Keralan dishes too.

I finally got round to trying something along those lines and rather enjoyed the results: beautiful pale fish with a bright white coating that was subtly flavoured by the zest and juice of a lime, and a few slices of green chilli.

Steaming caused a hint of the lime, chilli and yoghurt to infiltrate the fish and set the coating a little. The heat from the chilli was light but important, a cold dollop of tangy yoghurt on the side provided a super contrast, and a beetroot salad maintained a fresh feel; this one is a good dish for a summer evening.

Bengalis would use freshwater fish like tilapia or barramundi, but the latter is not that accessible in the UK and I’m not a huge fan of tilapia. So I looked for a fairly firm, thick salt water fish instead and chanced upon some lovely bright white Chilean sea bass. Wild black cod would do a similar job (cod, pollock or salmon would hold the marinade too, if you fancy a cheaper option).

I used thick, full fat natural Greek yoghurt for the marinade. If you try this dish, you must do the same – anything less than 8% fat would just split during the cooking process. Proper yoghurt sets a little as it is steamed and adds flavour. Frankly, you should always buy flavoursome full fat dairy items in any event; if you’re calorie counting, drop your sugar intake and up your exercise instead…

Yoghurt and lime steamed sea bass

Serves 2

  • 200g Chilean sea bass, skin removed
  • 150g full fat Greek yoghurt
  • 2 limes
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 Thai green chilli finely sliced
  • Salt and pepper

Try to buy 1 thick tranche of sea bass, weighing roughly 200g. Ask the fishmonger to skin the piece if you are not confident of doing this yourself. There is a natural line running through the middle of the fish. Follow that line and cut the fish into two equal (and squarish) parts.

Make the yoghurt marinade / sauce by adding the zest of one lime and the zest of half a lemon to 150g of yoghurt. Finish with the juice of half a lime, a good pinch of salt and three turns of your pepper grinder. Mix well with a spoon.

Place the two fish pieces on a side plate or another flat container. Spoon 3-4 teaspoons of the lime yoghurt mix over the fish and ensure all sides of the fish are coated. Allow to sit in the marinade for 10-20 minutes whilst you cook your rice and make any side dishes. Put a saucepan of water on to boil for your steamer.

Pierce a few holes in a piece of grease proof paper and place that in the base of a steamer. Carefully lift the fish pieces on to the paper (a mini step palette knife will be useful). Scrape any marinade from the plate over the fish and sprinkle the green chilli pieces over the fish. Steam for 3 minutes and remove the fish from the steamer onto a serving plate. You could garnish with more lime zest and chilli if you wish.

Eat with a good dollop of the uncooked lime yoghurt, some fluffy rice, some wilted spinich or a zesty, crunchy root salad.

I used the second half of the lime and a few curry leaves to season my cooked basmati rice, and mixed some grated raw beetroot with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.