Tuskfish, or parrot fish, has an interesting reputation as a food. In the heat of the tropics it spoils a little too quickly, especially if left on the deck or in a bucket on a hot day, whereas in winter in subtropical waters and when placed into an iced slurry upon capture the flesh remains firm and allows the sweet flavours to be enjoyed with the right texture.
I like to accessorise the parrot’s delicate flavour with a contrasting sauce.
1 small handful basil leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled
25g grated parmesan
1 cup (250ml) olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 large capsicums, red, yellow
1 pan sized parrot fish
(1) Plunge the basil leaves into a bowl of boiling water for a few seconds and then plunge them into a bowl of icy water. The boiling water will soften the leaves and the icy water refreshes the basil and retains the beautiful green colour. Drain the basil and then place them on some paper towel to absorb any excess water.
(2) Place the basil in a food processor or blender. Add the garlic, parmesan and 200ml of the olive oil and process to a smooth(ish) puree. Season to taste with freshly ground salt and pepper. Transfer the puree to a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
(3) Preheat your grill or BBQ plate. Cut each capsicum into quarters or eights depending on their size, and remove the core and seeds. Toss the capsicum pieces in a little of the remaining olive oil and then arrange them on your grill or BBQ. Season the capsicum pieces with a little freshly ground salt and pepper. Grill the capsicum pieces, turning occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until they are softened and slightly charred.
(4) Meanwhile, heat a heavy-based frypan (one big enough to hold a whole parrot fish) until it is very hot. Cut a couple of slashes in the skin of each parrot fish to help prevent the fish curling up during the cooking process. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and place the parrot fish into the pan. Cook for about four minutes on each side (depending on the thickness of the fish).
(5) Transfer the fish to a serving plate. You may choose to remove the skin from the fish.
(6) Stir the basil dressing thoroughly. Arrange the grilled capsicum on the fish and either serve the basil dressing spooned around the fish or in a small dish to one side.
Cook the parrot fish as ‘naked’ fillets (skinned) in a manner similar to the previous recipe except shorten the grilling time.
This is a full flavoured tomato based sauce that uses the classic partnership of basil and tomato.
440g tin diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper
200ml chicken stock
2-3tbsp balsamic vinegar
4tbsp butter, cut into small cubes
Handful of basil leaves, coarsely chopped
(1) Pop the diced tomatoes into a small frypan over a medium heat. Reduce the liquid in the tomatoes until it has nearly evaporated. This should take about five and you will need to stir the tomatoes frequently during this process.
(2) Season the tomatoes with freshly ground salt and pepper. If you are using powdered stock you may wish to omit seasoning the tomatoes with salt at this stage and simply season with pepper. Stocks made from a powdered base can be quite salty.
(3) Add the chicken stock to the tomatoes, stirring well to combine. Cook the tomato mixture for about 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half. Stir the balsamic vinegar into the mixture. Whisk the butter, a cube at a time, into the tomato mixture until the butter is well combined.
(4) Add the basil leaves to the tomato mixture, season to taste. Keep the tomato sauce warm over a very low heat until you are ready to serve.
(5) Shallow fried chunky potato chips as a side dish gives you a great base on your fork on which to pile up some tomato.Reads: 5050