I really don’t get the fascination with Tilapia. The fact that it is quite a ‘meaty’ fish is what makes it score points with me, otherwise, I am not such a huge fan. The bones it has, is also enough to scare the daylights out of you. After a traumatic experience of swallowing fish bones as a child, I kinda have a phobia for Tilapia. The other meaty fish that I really really enjoy are Tuna (gosh I love tuna steaks), swordfish, grouper, and croaker. Tilapia has this strong fishy smell, plus it is not the easiest fish in the world to season because it can sometimes turn out tasting bland. Despite my rule about not overloading fish/seafood with too much spices of aromatic veggies, cooking with Tilapia is the only time I break that rule.
My mum shares my sentiments about Tilapia too, and it rarely made a showing in our house, and when it did, it was mostly grilled, or battered and fried. Anne, a dear friend who I met through SYTYCC was coming over to mine with lots of meat goodies, and I knew I had to reciprocate my giving her something to take home. She is a bonafide fish lover, so I just knew grilling a whole Tilapia for her to take home, would be a good way to show my appreciation. She came from quite a long way away with her family.
Again, I was looking for something to add that extra kick to tilapia, and I thought of oven grilling it in traditional Moin Moin leaves. It was amazing. Quite a hit. The aroma of the leaf, coupled with the seasoning and the fish while it was grilling in the oven was just sublime. Quite unexpected too, because you tend to associate the aroma of moin moin leaves cooking with Ofada rice or steamed Moin Moin. If you have access to sourcing these local leaves, try grilling fish in them and tell me how it turns out. You will love it I am sure.
Quite simple to prepare. Here’s how
You will need
ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
1/2 a lemon
1 large Moin Moin Leaf
Seasoning cube – optional
1. Chop all the veggies finely. I just got this Hand blender with a mini chopper accessory and it is simply the best. it chopped all this in seconds. No tears from the onions, no stingy fingers from the chilli. One of the handiest tools to have in your kitchen.
2. Lay your well gutted and cleaned Tilapia on a large Moin Moin leaf. Take a knife and make a deep gash on the side to create a hole because you are going to stuff some of the chopped vegetable and seasoning in it, this will help it penetrate deep into the fish. To get rid of that strong fishy Tilapia smell and taste, rub half a lemon all over the fish and inside the fish, squeezing lightly to release lemon juice. This will serve as the base to hold your seasoning.
3. Pour over the chopped veggies, and also stuff the fish with the chopped veggies. Take one stalk of lemongrass and pass it through from the head to the body of the fish. After which you sprinkle the curry powder, thyme, salt and suya spices. You can also sprinkle over 1 seasoning cube if you wish. Drizzle with olive oil.
see the slit I was referring to above? Remember to stuff the fish as much as you can. This will also help to keep the insides moist, and flavourful.
4. Wrap the leaf around the fish, and use toothpicks to seal it tight. Place in the fridge for hours to marinade, and bring it out to grill shortly before you serve. Wrap in foil to prevent the leaves from buying in the oven, place on a baking tray and put in the oven. If you don’t have foil at home, fill a deep baking tray or baking pan with water and place at the bottom of the oven. This is to help create steam, which will ensure that the oven is nice and humid, and the leaves will not dry out and burn. Grilling should take about 15 – 20 minutes with the oven set to 180 – 200 degree centigrade.
Remember to place the fish with the leaves sealed in the oven. After 15minutes, check that the fish has cooked through, then expose the fish, for about 3 – 5 minutes to allow the skin to crisp up.
This was how it looked like when it came out from the oven. As Anne was taking it home with her for Lunch the next day, it would be better enjoyed if she reheated it by exposing the fish in her own oven. So, I have no pictures of how crispy it would have turned out