Coconut rice with salmon and cilantro sauce from “The Kitchen Shelf” by Eve O Sullivan and Rosie Reynolds. Photo by Andy Sewell.

Coconut milk is one of the easiest ways to spiff up white rice, but this 30-minute salmon dish gets another boost from a chili flake-laced cilantro sauce. You could replace the water with oil and make a chimichurri, or use tofu or another kind of fish instead of the salmon.

Coconut Rice with Salmon and Cilantro Sauce

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups white basmati rice, rinsed
1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk
1/2 tsp. superfine or granulated sugar (optional)
4 salmon fillets, skin on
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the cilantro sauce:
1 Tbsp. superfine or granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. chili flakes, plus extra for garnish
1 large bunch cilantro coarsely chopped

Heat oil in a large lidded pan, add the onions and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant, then add the rice and stir to coat in the oil. Add coconut milk, then half fill the empty coconut can with water and add to the pan. Add a generous pinch of salt and the sugar, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the rice is just tender and the liquid has been absorbed.

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, place the fillet in the skillet skin-side down, and cook for 3 minutes, or until the skin is golden and crisp. Flip the fillets over and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from the skillet and keep warm.

To make the cilantro sauce, pour scant 1/2 cup water into a small pan, add the sugar, salt and chili flakes, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, or until slightly reduced and syrupy. Remove from the heat.

Put cilantro into a food processor and pulse to chop. Gradually pour in the syrup and continue to pulse until the cilantro and finely chopped and the sauce is combined. Check the seasoning; it should be slightly sweet with a hint of chili.

To serve, divide the rice and fish among 4 plates, then drizzle generously with the sauce and sprinkle with extra chili flakes, if you like. Serves 4.

— Adapted from “The Kitchen Shelf” by Eve O’Sullivan and Rosie Reynolds (Phaidon, $29.95)