Maggie Cooper's Cajun-style fish.
Maggie Cooper's Cajun-style fish. 123rf

Bring blackened back the way the South intended

A few decades ago, Cajun food was all the rage and blackened everything was at the top of the list of go-to recipes.

I ate some dreadful variations back then - it seemed a lot of chefs and cooks used the term "blackened” to mean "cook it until it's incinerated”. It was not uncommon to get a mouthful of grit along with the grilled or pan-fried protein.

I fell into the trap a number of times until I realised that you could still fulfil the "blackened” description without cremating the food. Visiting New Orleans helped - the authentic Cajun cuisine served at the heart of its homeland was considerably more subtle than the versions served elsewhere.

I've refined my own version of Cajun fish. I dip the fish fillets (snapper or flathead are ideal) briefly in melted butter (traditional) or olive oil (healthier choice) then in the blend of herbs and spices. After that a quick sear in a cast-iron pan or skillet to just cook the fish through is all that's needed.

CAJUN-STYLE FISH

Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS

2 tsp smoky paprika; 2 tsp onion powder; 1 tsp cayenne pepper; 1 tsp garlic powder; 1 tsp dried thyme leaves; 1 tsp ground black pepper; 1/4 tsp ground cumin seeds; 1/4 tsp salt; 4 fillets firm white fish; 1/4 cup olive oil or melted unsalted butter, divided; 1/4 cup mayonnaise; 1 tsp hot pepper sauce; lemon wedges, to serve

METHOD

Combine spices and herbs in a small bowl then sprinkle on a plate.

Dip fish fillets quickly in half the oil or melted butter, then in the spice mixture. Refrigerate for a few minutes.

Heat remaining oil or butter in a cast-iron pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Cook fish briefly on each side until just cooked through (the fish will continue to cook after you remove it from the heat).

Combine hot sauce with mayonnaise.

Serve fish with chilli mayonnaise and lemon wedges.

maggies.column@bigpond.com