Fish pappas

Fish pappas

By
From
I Love India
Serves
4
Photographer
Martin Poole

Kerala is a beautiful, verdant coastal region and its food is as abundant as the waters of the Arabian sea that laps it. If you look at Kerala on the Indian map, it looks like a languishing green chilli along the coast and I find a similar sense of serenity in the people. When you visit Kerala, it does seem as though time slows down, whether you are on a houseboat, slowly gliding along the backwater canals, stopping for a bite to eat at one of the restaurants bordering the canals, or staying in one of the many Ayurvedic spas. It is full of character, but it isn’t brash. This fish curry is a little like that, full of delicious coastal flavours (fish, curry leaves, coconut), even green chillies and other spices, but with nothing harsh about it. It is comforting enough for every day, but elegant enough to serve to friends. Serve with Simple, Perfect Rice, or Tamil-style Lemon Rice.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

For the marinade

Quantity Ingredient
600g halibut, cut into large pieces, (I quarter steaks)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 large garlic clove, finely grated
10g grated root ginger, juice squeezed out, (discard the fibres)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
salt
ground black pepper

For the sauce

Quantity Ingredient
5 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil, plus 2 tbsp for the fish
2/3 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/3 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
15 curry leaves, fresh if possible
2 onions, finely chopped
30g finely chopped or grated root ginger, (peeled weight)
1 large tomato
45g (10-11 large) garlic cloves
2/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
11/2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon see method for ingredients
400ml coconut milk
4-6 small indian green chillies, stalks removed, pricked with a knife
11/2-2 tablespoons white wine or other vinegar
50g coconut cream

Method

  1. Marinate the fish with all the remaining ingredients in the list and 2 good pinches of salt and leave for 20 minutes or so.
  2. Heat the 5 tbsp oil in a large non-stick saucepan. Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds. Once the popping slows down, add the curry leaves. Follow within 10 seconds with the onions and some salt. Cook until soft and just turning colour. Add the ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
  3. As the onions cook, blend the tomato and garlic until smooth. Add to the ginger along with the powdered spices and a splash of water. Cook until the paste releases oil back into the pan, a good 8–10 minutes or so. Then stir-fry the paste for another couple of minutes. Taste: the garlic should be cooked and it should taste harmonious and a bit salty at this stage.
  4. Add the coconut milk and chillies, bring to the boil, cover and cook for 4–5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large, non-stick frying pan and add the fish; you might have to do this in 2 batches. Fry over a medium-high heat until lightly golden on both sides. Place on a plate and repeat with the second batch. It shouldn’t take more than 2–3 minutes in total for each batch.
  5. Add 350ml water to the sauce pot, along with the vinegar, and bring to the boil. Cook for 4–5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Add the fish and coconut cream to the pot and cook for 3–5 minutes more, turning the pieces of fish halfway through. The fish should be cooked and the sauce should be creamy.
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