Pan-fried snapper with sage butter and herby, lemony couscous

When I left New Zealand for New York, they told me ‘oh the fresh produce is so expensive and nothing like home!’.

At times this has been partially true, but really I have been living in an exotic produce wonderland. The mangos in New York are unbelievable, so cheap and juicy perfection all year round. In our local (insane) supermarket you can buy edible cactus and more varieties of greens than you knew existed, the watermelons are the biggest I’ve ever seen. I eat more salads than ever. BUT dear god the meat. I’ve spent literally hours wandering in the cold, enormous meat chiller trying to work out the equivalent of an eye fillet steak. The chicken breasts are so large its scary, all I can think of is all those hormones they are fed… on top of that en-route to work each day I walk past a poultry slaughterhouse, one of the hundreds in Brooklyn. So, chicken is off the menu until I find a free-range, organic butcher. I’m saved by seafood, Food Bazaar (my local) has an amazing selection of fresh fish, filleted, in steaks or whole, all sorts of shellfish, baby octopus, even New Zealand Salmon at times.

I made this dish for my family when they visited me in New York, my mother is the best cook I know and, dare I be so cheesy but, a total inspiration to me. When I lived with my family at home I admit I rarely cooked, I just enjoyed eating sitting at the ‘island’ in our big open plan kitchen and watching her whip up dinner. It’s amazing how much I have absorbed, her tips and methods float around me when I’m in the kitchen.

Snapper with sage butter and herby lemony couscous

Pan-fried snapper:

4 snapper fillets

100gm butter

Flour for coating fish, about half a cup

the couscous:

1 cup couscous

1 small onion, thinly sliced

a handful of cherry tomatoes

1/4 tsp ground cumin

3/4 cup boiling water

1 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon, the rinded and juiced

A handfull of each of the following, roughly chopped:


cilantro (that’s coriander to you kiwis)



arugula (rocket)


any other herbs and greens you like

save a handful of the herb mix for garnishing

for the sage butter:

150gm butter

20 sage leaves

ricotta to serve

lemon wedges to serve

1 cup of radishes, sliced or quartered to serve

salt and pepper

Place the couscous in a bowl and cover in boiling water, cover in cling film and put aside for 10 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onion till golden brown and soft, adding cumin and salt halfway through, set aside.

Mix the herbs, tomato, lemon rind and browned onions with the couscous, seasoning generously with salt and pepper. Taste test, add lemon juice and more seasoning according to taste. Set aside.

Melt the stick of butter in a saucepan, add sage leaves. Fry sage leaves in butter until deeper in colour, fragrant and slightly crisp, only a few minute, move into jug or bowl, set aside. 

Coat the Fillets in flour and generously salt and pepper. Heat a knob of butter in the fry pan used for the sage butter, when melted and hot add the snapper to the pan. Cook for a few minutes on each side, until golden. Repeat with all fillets, being careful the wipe out the pan if the butter is starting to burn.

Arrange the couscous on 4 plates with the lemon and radishes. Place snapper fillets on top of the couscous, spoon over the sage butter and sage leaves. Serve with a blob of ricotta topped with the remaining herbs.