Keralan Fish Curry

I am by no means an expert when it comes to curries or Indian cuisine in general. I have a favourite Indian restaurants here in Leeds which serves beautiful food and we visit the place regularly. When it comes to recreating that vibrancy of flavours at home, however, I am a big fan of following recipes and not coming up with my own. I love coconut milk and its creamy sweetness, much as I adore it paired up with the spicy kick coming from chillies and the fiery warmth of ginger. Needless to say, when I saw an old episode of  Nigella’s Forever Summer where she prepared this delicacy, I could not but try it at home. This curry is, in her words, not an original one. If that is what you’re after, then this recipe will clearly satisfy your crave.

Kerala is a state in the South of India, home to many coconut trees, which feature predominantly in the local cuisine. This recipe uses turmeric to tinge the pale white of the milk a deep golden yellow and plunges a good dollop of tamarind paste to provide a much welcome sour counterpart to the sweetness of coconut. White fish works well with this. Please feel free to steer away from the usual choices (cod and haddock) and try something new. I used pouting, a white-flesh belonging to the cod family, which is much cheaper than its biological father and massively underused. It is widely available in supermarkets (if I found it, you can too) and fishmongers across the country.

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Ingredients

  • 1.25kg of firm white fish (cod, haddock, pouting, monkfish, etc.)
  • 2 tbsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 medium onions, halved and sliced in fine half moons
  • 2 long red chillies, sliced (seeds in)
  • 4cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced in small batons
  • 1 x 400ml coconut milk tin
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 fish stock cube
  • olive oil

Method

  1. Cut the fish in bite-size chunks, then put it in a big bowl and dust with half the turmeric. Season with coarse salt, then use your hands to combine the ingredients and leave on the side.
  2. In a large saucepan, gently fry the onions in a drizzle of olive oil until slightly golden and translucent, then add the sliced ginger and chillies and cook for a further minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the turmeric and the ground cumin to the saucepan, then stir over medium heat until the vegetables are evenly coated and fragrant.
  4. In the meantime, pour the coconut milk into a jug, add the fish stock cube and pour in enough boiling water to bring it to 1 L. Add the tamarind paste and stir to combine.
  5. Add to the vegetables, then bring to the boil. The sauce is now ready and, once added to the saucepan, the fish only takes about 5 minutes to cook. Therefore, make sure you add it right before eating. The sauce can be re-heated before cooking the fish.
  6. Season with salt before serving, add more tamarind if you feel it needs it, then pour in dishes with some plain basmati rice and scatter with coriander. Enjoy!

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