Whole fish: love it or hate it. I belong to the fish loving faction and the sight of a whole fish excites me. I know that some people dislike coming face to face with the food that they eat but that's just because they are not used to it.
This is the kind of food Orientals love: whole fish on the bone. There's nothing like it. I know that fillet is the the simplest and safest way to go but the fish bones gives a lot of taste to the flesh of the fish as it cooks. Just imagine how much taste it gives water when you boil it for stock. That's how much taste it gives to the fish when cooked whole.
Tilapia has very few bones that are big and easy to pick. If you've never tried whole fish, this would make a good entry point. This is a quick and easy dish to make and is ideal for sharing. All you need is a simple vegetable side dish to complete the meal.
1 whole tilapia, cleaned and scaled
2 1/2 tsps. sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsps. of oil
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tbsps. butter
1 tbsp. chopped red chillies
3 tbsps. chopped parsley
Cut slashes across the tilapia in opposite directions to make diagonal patterns.
Squeeze the juice of the lemon on the tilapia and rub with 1 tsp. of the crushed garlic, pushing it well into the cuts. Slice half of the squeezed lemon and stuff in the stomach cavity of the fish.
Season with salt and pepper on both sides.
Fry the rest of the garlic in the cooking oil until golden brown. Skim off the garlic and set aside.
Drizzle the oil (used for frying garlic) on both sides of the fish. Transfer to a non stick baking dish or line the dish with a non stick liner or baking parchment.
Bake at 400° F/ 200° C, turning over at half time for 20-30 minutes or until done. The fish may also be grilled on a barbecue. To test, poke the thickest part of the flesh with the tip of a knife. If it is soft and comes away from the bone easily, then it is done.
Spread the 3 tbsps. butter on top of the fish and sprinkle with the toasted garlic. Sprinkle with the chopped chillies and parsley.
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