Recipe: Coconut Fish Curry
When the weather gets dark and stormy, a fragrant mix of coconut and curry straight out of Kerala will help you find the light with a burst of flavours
By Louise Crosby
(October 29, 2016) — The sky is grey, the wind is raw and damp, and it’s cold. Winter seems suddenly upon us. But with a little imagination, and the right food, you can transport yourself to a place far away, where the air is warm and fragrant, and soft breezes blow through the coconut palms.
That’s where this Coconut Fish Curry, from Meera Sodha’s Made in India, comes in. Straight out of Kerala, on the southwest coast of India, it is a delicate and luxurious dish, full of onions, ginger, garlic and a touch of heat, brightened with fresh tomato, and mellowed with rich and creamy coconut milk. Served with basmati rice, a sprinkling of cilantro, and a squirt of lime, it will make you forget that it snowed last night.
Sodha’s recipe calls for fresh curry leaves and indeed, they would be wonderful – if you can find them. Produce Depot here in Ottawa has sold them in the past, but was out of them when I dropped in, so I gave up on that idea and opted for cilantro instead, practical person that I am. Who wants to drive around town all day looking for something you’re not going to find? The curry is still delicious without curry leaves, but by all means use them if you can, as they lend the dish a particularly exotic flavour.
Sodha uses a mortar and pestle to smash the garlic, ginger and chilli to a paste. This worked for me, but a mini food processor would also do the job in no time. She also uses hake; I opted for widely-available, fresh wild-caught haddock, but any firm-fleshed white fish will work.
Coconut Fish Curry
5 cm (2-inch piece) ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 fresh green chilli, roughly chopped (deseeded if you prefer less heat)
3 tablespoons coconut or rapeseed oil
20 fresh curry leaves (optional)
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 big ripe tomatoes, quartered
3⁄4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon chilli powder
300 ml coconut milk
4 fillets (150–180g each) of sustainable firm white fish such as hake, pollack, haddock or cod, skinned
Cilantro, for garnish (optional)
1 lime, quartered
Put the ginger, garlic and green chilli in a pestle and mortar, along with a pinch of salt, and bash to a paste. Put the oil into a wide-bottomed, lidded frying pan on a medium heat. When it’s hot, add the curry leaves if you are using them, followed by the onions, and stir every now and then for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are pale gold. Add the garlic-ginger-chilli paste and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the tomatoes, 1 1⁄2 teaspoons of salt, the turmeric and the chilli powder. Put the lid on the pan and cook for a couple of minutes.
Meanwhile, dilute the coconut milk with 100 ml of water and add to the pan. When the milk starts to bubble, add the fish fillets, turn the heat down a little, cover with the lid and cook for approximately 5 to 7 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.
Serve with a sprinkling of cilantro, if using, a big squeeze of lime and some rice.
Photos by Louise Crosby
THE EX-PRESS, October 29, 2016