On the fourth day of Chefmas Shaun Hill gave to me…

Keralan Fish Curry

Kerala is the great fish area of southern India. There are sea fishing fleets of course, as it is coastal, but more interestingly there are miles of backwaters with brackish waters as well as fresh water lakes all supporting different types of fish. It is the pearlspot from the backwaters that is the most prized catch. Kerala tends to use tamarind as a souring agent rather than lime juice but is in many respects similar in style to south east Asian cuisines like Thai or Vietnamese. I have covered all the options by using both.

There’s not a lot of pearlspot to be found in Abergavenny way, so whichever fish you fancy will substitute just fine. My preference is for meaty fish like sea bream or gurnard as they take on the spicing really well. You’ll be wasting your money if you use sole or turbot for this dish.

Like most Asian dishes this recipe calls for a vast range of herbs and spices. Don’t be daunted – you will find the same spices in both the paste and the curry. A word on chillies: the general rule is that the smaller the angrier. So birds-eye or Scotch bonnets will be dynamite. Another word about ground spices, they lose power once the packet is open, so year-old ground cumin or cinnamon is only good for the bin.

Shaun Hill _header

Keralan Fish Curry
Serves 6

6 x 150g gurnard fillet
Small knob of butter

For the paste
1 medium onion
6 cloves garlic
1 knob ginger
1 small green chilli
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground fenugreek
½ teaspoon milled black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato passata
2 tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil
Pinch salt

For the curry
1 medium onion
1 small knob of ginger
1 small green chilli
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
6 curry leaves
2 medium tomatoes
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
500m stock or water
1 tin coconut milk
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

Two hours in advance:

  1. Peel and slice the onions, garlic and chillies. Place half in a food processer along with all the remaining paste ingredients and blend. Spread most of the paste over the fish fillets and leave until needed, but at any rate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Fry the remaining onion, chilli and ginger along with the sauce spices, tomato, mustard seed and any leftover paste until brown then add the coconut milk and lime juice. Simmer for a few moments then leave.

30 minutes in advance:

  1. Warm the curry sauce. Then heat a pan with the knob of butter. Season the fish fillets then sear quickly, one or two at a time, so that the paste has started to colour.
  2. Turn the fillets into the warm curry then simmer until done. The timing will vary according to the thickness of the fish fillet and the heat of the curry sauce but 15 minutes should do the trick.
  3. Finish the dish with chopped parsley and coriander.

The 12 days of Chefmas…


Emma Cullen

Emma is an ex-Fed Up & Drunker that has been released into the wild

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