Curry leaves and cumin seeds, 128pp.
by Jeeti Gandhi
Struik Publishers, Cape Town, 2002
Cooking on page 32
For years I’ve searched for a great fish curry recipe and for years I’ve come close but never quite got there. But I have continued to try.
Not surprisingly, this cookbook and its fishy page-32 recipe were immediate temptations, so I checked it out from the library.
So let’s find out what happened.
Tamater wali machhi (fish in tomato gravy)
600 g firm white fish fillets
2 t (10 ml) ginger paste
1 t (5 ml) garlic paste
1 t (5 ml) lemon juice
1 t (5 ml) salt
1/2 t (2.5 ml) chilli powder or paprika
1 T (15 ml) coconut cream powder
3/4 cup (180 ml) water
1 T (15 ml) coarsely chopped cashew nuts
2 t (10 ml) sunflower seeds
2 T (30 ml) oil
1 T (15 ml) finely chopped garlic
1/2 t (2.5 ml) turmeric
1 t (5 ml) ground cumin
1 t (5 ml) paprika
1 T (15ml) tomato purée
2 large, ripe tomatoes, puréed
1 1/2 t (7.5 ml) garam masala
1/4 cup (60 ml) finely chopped fresh coriander
salt to taste
1/4 cup (60 ml) cream
Cut the fish fillets into small pieces (about 4 cm each). Place in a mixing bowl and add the ginger and garlic pastes, lemon juice, salt and chilli powder or paprika. Mix thoroughly and leave to marinate for about 30–40 minutes.
Soak the coconut cream powder in water for 5 minutes. Place cashew nuts, sunflower seeds and soaked coconut in a blender and blend until a smooth paste is formed. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds without letting it turn brown. Add the turmeric, cumin, chilli powder or paprika and tomato purée. Stir-fry for another 30–40 seconds. Stir in the coconut paste and continue stir-frying for 2–3 minutes longer. Add the fish, stir and cook gently until the fish is well coated with sauce. Stir in the puréed tomatoes, garam masala, half of the chopped coriander and salt to taste.
When it starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. With a slotted spoon remove the fish pieces to a serving dish and keep warm.
Add the cream to the remaining sauce in the pan. Stir and cook until the sauce starts to bubble again. Remove from heat and pour it over the fish. Garnish with the other half of the chopped coriander.
Serve with plain boiled rice, kachoomber raita or any other salad of your choice. The fish can also be served with plain Italian bread instead of rice.
How it played out
I made this recipe, pretty much as written, for one of my elaborate Indian feasts. The occasion was a Bloddy Girl weekend at my beach house at Rosedale on Australia’s South Coast.
These weekends are all about friends, food, laughter and more than a little wine, and it’s been a long time since I made an Indian spread for the crowd.
I started a couple of days ahead to let most of the curries ‘mature’, but I saved making this one until the last minute because I don’t think fish curries need much ‘curing’ time.
Didn’t have ginger paste on hand so I substituted fresh grated ginger. Was a little heavy-handed with the cashews and sunflowers seeds because I love both flavours. And of course, given the choice between chilli powder and paprika, I used the former for the 6th ingredient on the list.
I omitted the cream because one Bloddy Girl is lactose intolerant, and I wanted her to be able to enjoy every dish (which is also why I didn’t make one of my raitas).
And a quick comment about ‘t’ and ‘T’ in recipes. You probably know but just in case, the lowercase ‘t’ stands for teaspoon and the uppercase ‘T’ stands for tablespoon.
We enjoyed curries based on corn, potato with peas, cauliflower, pork, chicken and, of course, fish (the only pape-32 offering). Across the board, the fish was the 5-star favourite. Everything else got 4.5 stars or more, but I was delighted to have the fish so well received.
Even better is the fact it took so little time to make. A winner all round—and in future I’ll add the cream. I can stop my fish curry search.
Bloddy Girls have been treated to other page-32 recipes, including our favourite breakfast fare of egg and ham pies.