Bengali sea bream with cauliflower

Bengali sea bream with cauliflower

By
From
I Love India
Serves
4
Photographer
Martin Poole

This dish is the pride of many Bengali homes. The recipe changes from cook to cook but fresh fish is always a requisite. The man of the house would normally go to the market, first thing in the morning before work, to buy the freshest possible fish. The light sauce – jhol – is more akin to a flavoured stock than a thick sauce. Use any firm, white-fleshed fish; you can use fillets, but you will not get the flavour that you would with a steak. Also, mustard oil really adds to this dish and is traditionally used, but you can use vegetable oil. Serve with Simple, Perfect Rice. You can find Indian bay leaves in Indian stores or online; don’t use regular bay leaves instead as they have a different flavour.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
2 medium sea bream, cleaned, scaled and cut into 2.5–4cm steaks, (see introduction)
salt
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
150g large cauliflower florets
4-5 tablespoons mustard oil, (preferably)
or vegetable oil
1/2 red onion, quartered
20g roughly chopped root ginger, (peeled weight)
2 large garlic cloves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon panch phoran
2 dried indian bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon see method for ingredients, (fresh if possible)
2-3 green chillies, stalks removed, pierced with a knife
400ml water
handful chopped coriander

Method

  1. Wash the fish and rub in some salt and half the turmeric. Set aside for about 5–10 minutes. At the same time, salt the cauliflower florets and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan until it is smoking. Take it off the heat for 10 seconds to cool down, then add the fish. It will splutter, so have a lid close by. Fry until golden on both sides, about 5–6 minutes. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon, reserving the oil.
  3. Blend together the onion, ginger, garlic, cumin and mustard seeds until smooth, adding a little water if necessary to help the blades turn. The seeds don’t have to be completely fine, but do try and get it pretty smooth.
  4. Heat up 3 tbsp of the mustard oil from the frying pan in a mediumlarge non-stick saucepan over a medium heat. Add the panch phoran and cook for 20 sizzling seconds or until the seeds have darkened. Now add the bay leaves and follow a beat later with the onion paste, remaining ground spices, chillies and some salt and cook until it releases oil back into the pan, 10–12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Meanwhile, heat up the remaining oil in the frying pan over a low heat and add the cauliflower. Cook gently, turning often, until just softening, 5–7 minutes. Set aside.
  6. Add the water to the masala. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5–6 minutes. Add the fish and return to a simmer. After a minute add the cauliflower, cover and again return to a simmer. Cook for another 3 minutes or until everything is cooked through.
  7. Sprinkle over the coriander, taste and adjust the seasoning and serve hot with rice.
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