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Chef Nived Puresh: Pan-fried red snapper and prawns’ tails with cumin

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A recipe is an open book where you can read between the lines. And so it is with this pan-fried red snapper and prawns’ tails with cumin.
Behind this dish hides its author, chef Nived Puresh, a Mauritian through and through, striding along the beaches of his childhood, admiring the waves and colluding with the fishermen. All that reverberates in his recipe for red snapper…
 

 

Widening the horizon

Snappers are simple fish that are very popular in Mauritius. They include numerous species and are known by interesting, highly colourful and folkloric names.

Chef Puresh is something of a fish expert. Since childhood, when fish was cooked for the family meals in a ragout or a curry, he has retained both the taste and the spirit, although now he presents it in a more contemporary fashion. The red snapper has found its claim to fame, and all thanks to the spices that pierce the sauce (sea urchin butter) and the prawns. There’s cumin, blowing its own trumpet around the tender white flesh, and curcuma, a ray of sunshine to brighten up the sauces, (not to mention its multiple health benefits), and which gives the dish its Mauritian flavour, sun-drenched, welcoming and above all, diverse. It is true to say that the island’s great strength lies in its ability to take from all over the world what will most contribute to its contentment. Hence this curcuma, the jewel from India and Malaysia. It emerges from its terroir, embraces the whole world, and adds richness to any dish. A great recipe has the propensity to come together to widen, rather than shrink, the horizon.



The nobility of a dish

When he works with fish, chef Puresh is not one to brusque it. Just watch him! The fish holds pride of place in the centre of the plate, and admits of a few discreet garnishes – pansy petals, a sprinkling of spice and a sprig of thyme... Red snapper is no snob, and willingly accepts company. But too much would be a crowd. That is why the christophine – or chouchou – sprouts (as leafy vegetables), appear discreetly on the plate, together with our prawns with cumin, their antennae erect, and, to add a bit of a crunch, the dish’s musical dimension, an ultra-thin slice of bread spread with melted butter and baked. In general, when this is placed delicately on the starboard side of the plate, you can’t keep your fingers away, you can’t help picking it up: that is the tactile dimension of the dish. 


“A great recipe has the propensity to widen rather than shrink the horizon.”

 

The man and the sea

Chef Puresh chooses his snappers when the suppliers come in the early morning to present their wares. The varieties change with the seasons, and the red snapper is excellent from October to January. Yet, whatever the season, Nived Puresh loves walking along the beach (here we are again!), and talking to the fishermen. If the fish is to his liking – plump, sturdy, and orangey red – the deal is on, and that very evening, the fish shines pearly white on the plates.
 


 

The chef at Victoria Beachcomber is rather like a great writer. He does not impose, but he is there in the background if necessary. If your children want a simpler fish, he will prepare a simple pasta dish but always with fish. But other people can enjoy the pan-fried red snapper at any time of day: that’s how good-natured it is. And if you would like a wine to go with it, the chef’s advice is clear: a fruity white. A dish is also more fully appreciated when eaten in just the right setting. And what a setting here! At the Horizon restaurant, our hospitable chef recommends that, to make the most of his red snapper, you should ask the maître d’hôtel to reserve you one of the tables laid out on the beach, with only the endless lagoon for company.

By François Simon