If using parrotfish or any other small fish, leave them whole. If using red snapper, cut them in half. In a large mixing bowl, combine one crushed garlic clove, the bay leaf, the juice of 2 limes, salt and pepper, the sunflower oil and 125ml of water. Add all the fish and marinate for at least 2 hours.
Heat the unrefined palm oil in a large pot over a medium heat and cook the onion, thyme sprigs, parsley, spring onions and the remaining garlic for about a minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Add 125ml water and stir in the tomato purée. Cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the fish and marinade to the pot – they will be cooked at different times, so add firmer and larger fish first and smaller fish last, ensuring the sauce covers them: if not, add more water. Add the whole chilli. Cover the pot and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes for most small fish, 15 minutes for snapper and 20 minutes if using sea-bream steak.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the chilli and bay leaf. Serve hot with root vegetables, which could include boiled plantains, yam, breadfruit or sweet potato.