I have never been to southern India. I have not been to northern India either. Actually I have never left Europe as it so happens. I do however love making curries because I like big strong flavours that really smack you in the face; and one of my favourites is this fish curry. I can be pretty heavy handed when it comes to spices; but have to try to balance things a little more with this one which is one reason why I like it so much. This is a great mid week dinner as it does not require a huge amount of cooking time and it is relatively cheap to make. I always use white fish, in this case cod fillet, and you could make this using prawns or even chicken and it would still work. The key to this dish is to cook the fish separately and add it at the end; otherwise it will most likely fall apart and end up dispersed throughout the sauce. If using chicken or prawns this would not be such a concern; but you would want to ensure you do not over cook them so keeping them separate might not be such a bad idea. As with everything I make I’ve adapted this recipe over the last few years and make a few changes. I think the original idea came from a curry book I picked up in a charity shop years ago and was for a southern Indian curry called a fish molee; hence the title of this post. That was quite a simple recipe and so obviously I needed to add things to it and so here is my version.
Right so first things first, spices. I am not a less is more man when it comes to using spices and subtlety is definitely not in my locker. For this curry I reigned myself in a little and used about one tsp of the following:
- Turmeric – vital for colour and that earthy goodness, use a little more of this
- Fenugreek – curry flavouring
- Paprika – adds sweetness and some heat
- Cayenne – Heat
- Coriander – more sweetness
- Cumin seeds – adds nutty peppery flavour and texture
- Mustard seeds – adds to overall flavour of the dish
- Sea salt
- Cracked black pepper
Alongside all of these spices I also used some chopped garlic, a scotch bonnet chilli, a couple of finger chillies, and fresh coriander. I would have normally added some ginger to this but I must have picked up a bad one at the supermarket as it had started to go mouldy. I went for scotch bonnet chilli for its heat but also because they have a really fruity flavour. I removed the seeds of the scotch but chopped the finger chillies whole as wanted them to provide their full heat. The other ingredients are some leeks (or onions), a can of coconut milk, half a carton of passata and that is pretty much it apart from oil obviously.
I would normally cook this is a large heavy bottomed saute pan with a lid however mine is dead and in need of replacing so I used the trusty Le Crueset yet again. Heat up some oil in the pan and roll the fish fillets in the seeds and some of the salt, you want to be using skinless fish for this really. Cut the fish in half before adding to the hot oil and allowing to brown off on each side. They will most likely stick a little but you want to be quite careful in keeping the pieces together. This process will also toast your seeds off and most will end up remaining in the pan. Remove the fish after a minute or so on each side and place on a baking tray for later.
Add a little more oil if needed and then add the leeks to the pan and cook until softened. Then add your chillies, garlic, ginger if you have it, and the chopped stalks of the fresh coriander. Fry this off for a few minutes before adding in your ground spices. Once you have allowed the spices to fry a little to get the aromas going add in the passata and then the coconut milk. Bring this to the boil and then lower to a simmer and replace the lid. This will not have to cook for long, probably 20 to 30 minutes. You want to keep tasting it and from the 20 minute mark to check the seasoning.
When you are coming to the end place the fish into a pre heated oven for about 5-10 minutes and remove the lid from the curry and squeeze in some lemon juice. Remove the fish from the oven and then place into the sauce along with some chopped coriander. Leave it in there for a few minutes to take on a little of the sauce before serving with some rice. This curry should be lovely and fruity in flavour with an earthy undertone from the turmeric. It should also have some good heat but more of a slow burn rather than a lip burner. This is because you want your taste buds to be intact to appreciate the sweet fish flesh alongside the sweet and fruity sauce. Do not be daunted by this one, it is really easy to make and does not take much time either. You could simplify it as well by taking out some of the spices and certainly the seeds. Just make sure that the turmeric is in there as that is vital as is the fresh chilli.
So that is my take on a fish curry I hope that you like it and give it a try. It would be great to hear from you if you have any comments on this post or anything else I have written about. If you do not want to add a public comment I have added a contact form and set up an email address for the website which is firstname.lastname@example.org