Barbados is a great place to eat fish. Little fish markets around the coast sell fish landed the same day just yards away – barracuda, mahi-mahi (called dolphin fish here, not the same as a dolphin!), swordfish, tuna and more. For me, the iconic local fish is Red Snapper; it’s got beautiful firm and juicy white flesh with real flavour to it. Here’s my Stuffed Red Snapper recipe!
At the time of writing – January 2021 – Red Snapper was out of season, and the only specimens available were huge – 2 or 3 kilos (ideal for a family of 6, but not for the two of us). However, after a week or so, the wonderful fishmonger Melissa Taite, whose market stall in Paynes Bay goes under the inspiring and appropriate name of Fish, Fish and More Fish, found me a perfect 1.2kg specimen. Ideal for generous portions for two.
Of course, back in Europe we can’t get snapper, but the same recipe works perfectly for other large round fish. If you’re in the UK, wild sea bass or sea bream should be available (the farmed specimens are too small), and in Spain I’ve done this with Rey (also called Virrey, translates as red bream).
INGREDIENTS for Stuffed Red Snapper
- 1 Red Snapper (or other suitable fish) – about 1 to 1.5kg (if larger, adjust other quantities accordingly)
- 1 red pepper
- 1 green pepper
- 1 large onion or 2 shallots
- 1 large tomato
- 4 cloves garlic
- Bunch of fresh coriander
- Other fresh herbs as available (I used chives, parsley and oregano would be good too)
- 2 tablespoons dry Caribbean spice mix (may be called “blackening spice”)
- Salt and pepper
- 100ml olive oil
Ask the fishmonger to clean, scale and “butterfly” the fish, and remove as many bones as possible without losing too much flesh. This will vary slightly depending on the fish – Melissa’s method removed all the small bones but left the backbone in place, for other fish such as bass it will be a matter of cutting flat against one side of the bone, leaving it attached to one side of the fish. Basically you need the fish to remain “hinged” on its back so you can fold it over the stuffing – I’ve discovered that, whilst it’s second nature to Spaniards, this may take some explaining to a fishmonger in Britain!
Wash and dry the fish. Score gashes into the flesh on both sides, and lay it in a roasting tin that’s big enough.
Preheat the oven to 220C (425F, Gas 7)
Prepare the vegetable stuffing. Slice the onions and peppers and two cloves of garlic finely, and fry them all together gently with 50ml of the olive oil. The idea is to wilt the vegetables, so the onion is translucent, but not brown them, so go gently, stirring frequently – it will take about 10 minutes.
While that’s cooking, slice the remaining 2 garlic cloves finely and stuff the slices deep into the gashes you cut into the fish. Shake a tablespoon of the spice mix over the fish (half each side) and rub that into the gashes too.
Open up the fish and sprinkle the other tablespoon of spice mix over it.
Pour some oil into the roasting tin and toss the fish in it to make sure it won’t stick to the bottom of the pan (you need to do this before stuffing the fish)
Fold open the fish again. Take the vegetables off the hob and pile them onto one side of the fish. If they won’t all fit, no matter – just put the rest around the fish in the roasting tin.
Slice the tomato thinly and layer that inside the fish on top of the vegetable mixture
Chop all the herbs finely and sprinkle about half of them over the tomato
Sprinkle with salt and pepper
Now fold the fish over to cover the vegetable stuffing
Pour the remaining oil over the stuffed red snapper
Bake the fish in the oven for 25 minutes, basting a couple of times