A few days after my copy of Yasmin Newman’s new cookbook Under Coconut Skies: Feasts & Stories from the Philippines arrived in the mail, a heat wave in Melbourne coincided with the Filipino dinner a few friends and I were throwing. No one wanted to turn on the oven or labour for too long over the stove. I knew exactly what to make.

Kinilaw is a dish of raw seafood – usually fish – cured in native vinegar, which Filipino food historian Doreen Gamboa Fernandez called “liquid fire”. It’s also infused with local citrus (such as calamansi and dayap, aka key lime) and creamy coconut milk. Despite similarities to ceviche, the dish is native to the Philippines and dates back at least 1000 years.

Newman’s version is fresh, zesty and complex thanks to ribbons of punchy green mango and coriander oil. It’s perfect for Australian summer, but also a tantalising taste of the Philippines’s rich, tropical cuisine.

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Under Coconut Skies is the third cookbook from the Australian-Filipino author, and her second focusing on Filipino cuisine. It’s inspired by the three months Newman and her family lived in Siargao, a teardrop-shaped island famous for surfing, rolling waves, sweet young coconut, palm trees, rock pools and a tight-knit local community.

“Here, far from the capital Manila, I savoured the other side of the Philippines, where dishes were light, fresh and vegetable-laden, and artisan ways were preserved,” she writes in the introduction. “This is our native food, uncommonly fresh, simply cooked and requiring little adornment. The food of the Philippines that has sometimes gone untold in favour of the bigger, richer classics.”

And on the hot summer day I made this for friends, everyone went in for seconds.

Yasmin Newman’s kinilaw (catch of the day with coconut vinegar, makrut lime and coriander oil)
Serves 6
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Waiting time: 1 hour

Ingredients:
500g sashimi-grade tuna or tanique (Spanish mackerel), cut into 2cm cubes
Sea salt
1 green mango, shaved into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
2 makrut lime leaves, finely shredded

Kinilaw liquid
125ml sukang tuba (coconut vinegar)
2 tsp calamansi or lime juice
60ml coconut milk
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1cm piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

Coriander oil
1 bunch coriander, leaves picked
60ml vegetable oil

Method:
To make the kinilaw liquid, place the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl (such as ceramic or glass) and stand for 1 hour to infuse. Transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve, discarding the solids. Set aside.

To make the coriander oil, place the coriander in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water and stand for 30 seconds or until dark green and wilted. Drain, then refresh under cold water. Squeeze to remove the excess water, then transfer to a food processor, add the oil and process until smooth and bright green.

Place the fish in a bowl, in half the kinilaw liquid, and toss to combine. Stand for 1 minute to cure, then drain the liquid and discard. Season with salt. Add the green mango and lime leaf and toss to combine with the fish, then divide among serving bowls. Pour over a little of the remaining kinilaw liquid, drizzle with the coriander oil and serve immediately.

This is an edited extract from Under Coconut Skies: Feasts & Stories from the Philippines by Yasmin Newman, published by Smith Street Books, $55.

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