If a cake pop and a fish cake got together and spawned, you’d have something resembling this dish. Divide by the lowest common denominator and you have yourself a Fish Pop. You could also grill these skewer-free, and scatter slices of the lemongrass on top to serve.
4 lemongrass stems ⅓ bunch of coriander (cilantro) 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) firm-fleshed white fish such as monkfish or blue-eye cod, roughly chopped 3 tablespoons good-quality Thai green curry paste (not too salty) 1 teaspoon palm sugar (jaggery) 6 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish peanut or sunflower oil, for brushing
1 tablespoon finely grated lemongrass 2 tablespoons fish sauce 2 tablespoons palm sugar (jaggery) or brown sugar ¼ cup (60 ml) lime juice (preferably kaffir lime) 1 red chilli, bruised but kept whole 1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander (cilantro) stems 1 tablespoon peanut oil a pinch of chilli flakes
Green mango salad
1 long green (unripe) mango, flesh julienned 1 pomelo, peeled and segmented (skin and pith peeled), then roughly torn 1 banana shallot, finely sliced 2 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced on an angle ⅓ bunch of mint, leaves picked ¼ cup (40 g) cashews, toasted and chopped (see tips) ¼ cup (35 g) peanuts, toasted and chopped
Cut the lemongrass stems into thirds, reserving the pale white stems for grating into the dressing. Pick the leaves from the coriander and reserve for the salad; finely chop the coriander stems and reserve them for the dressing. Put the fish in a food processor. Add the curry paste, sugar and lime leaves and blitz into a rough paste. Have a bowl of water nearby, and line a tray with baking paper.
Using damp hands, squish squash-ball-sized rissoles of the fish mixture onto the 12 lemongrass stems, wetting your palms as needed to stop things sticking. Pop the skewers on the lined tray and chill for 20 minutes to set.
To make the dressing, finely grate the reserved lemongrass stems into a small saucepan. Add the fish sauce, sugar and 2 tablespoons of the lime juice. Bring to a simmer, let the sugar dissolve, then switch off the heat. Add the bruised chilli, reserved chopped coriander stems, peanut oil, chilli flakes and remaining lime juice, and give it all a stir. Taste for seasoning.
To make the salad, combine the mango, pomelo, shallot, spring onion and most of the mint in a bowl. Add most of the reserved coriander leaves. Scatter with the toasted nuts, reserving some for the top. Drizzle with most of the dressing and toss to combine. Top with the remaining nuts and herbs.
Heat a chargrill pan or barbecue chargrill plate until smoking hot. Wet a piece of baking paper until just damp, shake off the excess water and lay the paper on the grill pan (to help stop the fish sticking). Brush the fish pops with oil, then grill for about 4 minutes on each side. Once the surface of the fish pops is firm, pull off the baking paper and finish them on the naked grill if you’d like decisive char marks.
Serve the skewers alongside the dressed salad, with the left-over dressing in a dipping bowl.
Images and text from "In Praise of Veg" by Alice Zaslavsky, photography by Ben Dearnley. Murdoch Books RRP $59.99.