MY FAMILY and I recently accepted an invitation to try the great fishing at Weipa. We stayed with locals Marty and Deanne Hutchins and enjoyed regular social outings with many others. Talking to local Charlie Stewart, I told him we were planning a trip after queenfish with Marty. Charlie offered me a trade – if we brought one back for him he would share his recipe for nummus. A Fijian chef taught Charlie his version of nummus, so I was very interested to try it out. The deal was set.
Marty took us to a local queenie hotpot where we drifted over the area and cast our lures ahead of the boat. I cast my Sugoi surface lure to a patch of fish that were working amongst scattered submerged rocks. After a few skips and twitches of the lure a small queenfish inhaled it. The queenie cartwheeled over the surface, and after a short tussle it was in the boat. It was time for the nummus!
The Weipa locals reckon tea-leaf trevally and queenfish are the two best fish for nummus. The preparation is a two-part process; you might refer to it as cooking without heat.
Firstly, the fish is ‘cooked’ in the lemon juice and chillies. The lemon juice breaks down the enzymes in the fish, turning the flesh white and giving it a cooked appearance. No heating is required. I use one or two chillies, seeded and finely sliced, and I don’t use the chilli seeds. If you use too much chilli it will overwhelm the flavour of the nummus.
The second part of the preparation process is when you add the coconut milk and vegetables to the marinated fish. Then all you need to do is pop the dish into the fridge until cold and voila! Nummus.
1 queenfish, filleted and skinned
1-2 red chillies, seeded and finely sliced
juice from 5-6 lemons
1 tablespoon salt
1 continental cucumber, very finely sliced
1 red capsicum, seeded and finely sliced
1 Spanish onion, cut into halves and then finely sliced
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
2 x 400g tins coconut milk (light coconut milk is also fine)
1 bunch coriander, chopped
• Remove any red flesh from the fillets. Finely slice the queenie at about a 45-degree angle. This is easier to do if the fish is partially frozen.
• Pop the fish pieces into a shallow glass dish and add the finely sliced chilli and salt. Pour enough lemon juice over the fish to cover it. You will notice the fish becoming white as the lemon juice works its magic and ‘cooks’ the fish. Cover the glass dish with plastic wrap and place into the fridge.
• After the fish has marinated in the fridge for a few hours, take it out and pour off the lemon juice. Add the cucumber, capsicum, onion, tomatoes and coconut milk and tumble lightly to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Put the dish back into the fridge until ready to serve.
• To serve, simply give the lucky diners a generous bowlful of the nummus with some chopped coriander sprinkled on top.
1) The ingredients used for making nummus. Going clockwise from the lemons they are: coconut milk, fish strips, a bunch of coriander, a cucumber, red onion, cherry tomatoes, chillies and a capsicum in the centre.
2) The author with the queenfish that earned a staring role in the recipe.Reads: 3791