Roast Brill with Asian Tomato Sauce

Extract from Fearless Food © Lynda Booth 2017

This recipe has some key Thai elements. So much of Thai cooking is based on the balance of primary tastes - hot, sweet, sour and salty - and this complex tomato sauce has heat from the chilli, sweetness from the sugar, sourness from the vinegar and saltiness from the Thai fish sauce. The fun is in trying to get the balance right and when you are almost there, it is common for a drop of fish sauce to bring the whole thing together.

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To prepare the Roast Brill with Asian Tomato Sauce

For the asian tomato sauce

Soak the saffron in 4 tablespoons of boiling water. Peel and chop the ginger and garlic. Split the red chilli in half (remove the seeds if you wish) and chop roughly. Put the ginger, garlic and chilli in the bowl of a spice grinder or food processor and blend to a paste. If you do not have a grinder, grate the ginger, crush the garlic and chop the chilli finely and then pound to a paste in a pestle and mortar.

Heat a deep frying pan and add the sunflower oil. When hot, add in the mustard seeds. After a few seconds, the mustard seeds will start to jump and crackle. As soon as this happens, add the ginger garlic paste and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the diced tomatoes, white wine vinegar, stock, saffron and saffron water to the sauce. Simmer slowly until the tomatoes break down completely, about 8-10 minutes, adding more stock or water if necessary. Add the fish sauce and palm sugar and simmer for a few more minutes. Taste for balance and seasoning. If you would like a bit more kick to the sauce, add a pinch of chilli flakes. If it is too sweet, add another hint of vinegar. If its lacking depth, maybe it needs a hint more fish sauce. The sauce may be made up to this point in advance and then finished with the butter just before serving.

Whisk in the butter, one piece at a time and remove immediately from the heat. Ideally, the sauce should not be boiled when reheating.

To cook the fish

If the brill is thick, it may be started in the pan and finished in the oven. In this case, preheat the oven to 200˚C, 180˚C Fan, 400˚F, Gas 6.

Pat the fish dry with kitchen paper. Season with salt on both sides. Heat a non-stick frying pan until very hot. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and when hot, add the fish flesh side down first. Cook undisturbed on a medium to high heat for 2-3 minutes. When the underside becomes a little golden, turn the fish over. Transfer the pan to the oven to cook for 3-4 minutes. Exact timing will depend on the thickness of the fish. Remove from the pan and place on kitchen paper.

Reheat the sauce, mix in the coriander leaves and serve with the fish.


  • Serves 4

For the asian tomato sauce
12 threads of saffron
3 cm piece of root ginger
2 garlic cloves
1 large red chilli
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
300g tomato, peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
150ml-200ml chicken or fish stock (or Marigold bouillon)
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tbsp palm sugar
pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
25g cold unsalted butter, diced
small bunch of coriander

4 brill fillets, about 150g each, skin removed
1-2 tbsp sunflower oil, for pan frying the fish
Small knob of butter

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