Fish cooked in a spice paste of chilli and coconut with the tang of fruity tamarind and sweet onion.
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An iconic Indian dish which uses my favourite whole Kashmiri chillies as the key ingredient. In the south, it's all about frying a pungent spice paste to create the basis for a delicious sauce.
This dish uses some classic ingredients from the region from fresh coconut to tamarind for a robust, yet fresh and fragrant, flavour. I love this cooking style because it's all about cracking spices, squishing garlic and bashing ginger and slicing chillies. 'Argument Cooking' I call it. And we use the flat pestle and mortar to grind spices, the coconut scraper (The Coconut Scraper - that's going on my gravestone) and even a machete to split the coconut. Exciting stuff. Now, you can use coconut cream to create a thicker creamy sauce or you can go down the traditional path as I do and use water to make a thinner sauce. Either way, this is a classic you will just love.
600g skinless white fish fillets, chopped into chunks
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp salt
8 dried red chillies
80g fresh coconut, grated
3 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
1 tsp turmeric
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp tamarind extract
2 tbsp of oil
1 onion, sliced
1 tomato, puréed
3 fresh chillies, slit lengthways
Handful of coriander, chopped
Mix the salt, lemon juice and turmeric powder and rub over the fish chunks and leave to marinate for 30 minutes.
Soak the dried chilli in 250ml of warm water for 15 minutes. Drain and reserve the water.
Make up the spice paste by placing the soaked chillies, coconut, coriander seeds, chopped onion, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, garlic, tamarind extract and two tablespoons of the reserved soaking water in a blender and process to make a smooth paste.
Heat oil in a shallow wide based pan and add the sliced onion and fry to soften - do not brown. Add the spice paste and cook until golden brown. You may need a splash of water to ensure the paste doesn't burn.
Once aromatic add the tomato purée and fresh chillies and cook for a further five minutes.
Add water (or coconut milk if you prefer) to create a lovely sauce, bring to the boil and cook for a few more minutes.
Reduce the heat and gently place the marinated fish with any juice into the pan and cook for between five and seven minutes until the fish is soft.
Sprinkle with coriander to serve.