Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Punjabi Fish Curry with Bengali-Style Marinade

An ardent fan of Indian cuisine and also of Madhur Jaffrey, I couldn't wait to try out her new cookbook, Curry Nation, which was the latest addition to my ever expanding collection — Imelda had shoes, I have cookbooks! Rich and diverse, Indian cuisine is a jewel among the world's culinary empires, with flavours as exotic as its climate and as varied as its people. Throughout history India has been invaded and occupied by others, which not only had a major influence on the nations culture but also on its cuisine. Inspired by the fabulous recipes and gorgeous photography of Madhur Jaffrey's most recent cookbook, which pays homage to Britain's love affair with Indian cuisine, I decided to combine two of her new recipes to create Punjabi Fish Curry with Bengali-Style Marinade.

The doyenne of Indian cuisine, Madhur Jaffrey

I adapted my curry recipe from Jaffrey's Hot Punjabi King Prawn Curry, but used the marinade from her Macher Jhol, or Fish in Bengali-style sauce. Indian cooks often make their own curry spice blends to suit whatever dish they're preparing — their own personal signature — so my creative combination of flavours was not without precedence! As Madur says, "If there's a common denominator in all Indian foods, it's perhaps the imaginative use of spices." There we go. We're simpatico.

Madhur Jaffreys newest cookbook, and the latest addition 
to my ever expanding cooking library - Curry Nation

Starting with the Bengali-style dry marinade of ground coriander, turmeric, salt, lemon juice, and red chilli powder, I then added two tablespoons of plain yogurt and used the mixture to coat a pound of fresh hake cut up into large bite-size chunks, although any firm white fish would do. The fish is covered and refrigerated for at least an hour, allowing the marinade to work its magic. 

A Bengali-Style dry marinade of ground coriander, turmeric, salt, 
lemon juice, and red chilli powder

The hake is cut up into large 1 1/2-inch bite size chunks

The hake is tossed with the marinade plus two tablespoons of plain yogurt, 
then covered and chilled for at least one hour

When you're ready to cook the curry, two onions are finely chopped and added to 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds which have been sautéed in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. The onions are cooked for about 15-20 minutes, until they become nicely browned. A tablespoon of chopped garlic is then added, the heat is reduced to low and cooked for 2 minutes. A teaspoon of turmeric is stirred in and the mixture is allowed to cook for another minute. 

Two small onions finely chopped

In a large saucepan, cumin seeds are sautéed in four tablespoons of oil for few seconds

The onions are added and cooked until they become browned all over, about 15-20 minutes

Garlic and turmeric are added once the onion has browned

Although the recipe calls for two tomatoes to be roughly chopped, I used a handful of Campari tomatoes instead, which are larger than cherry tomatoes, but smaller and rounder than plum tomatoes. They held their shape nicely as the curry reduced. Two or three hot green chillies are then seeded, chopped and added to the curry, which continues to cook for another two minutes. I always use surgical gloves to seed and chop hot green chillies as they can sting and irritate skin. Scraping out the seeds and pith makes a curry less powerful, but if you like heat, go for it.

Fresh tomatoes and two hot green chillies are chopped - I always use plastic gloves 
to chop chillies so it doesn't sting if I touch my mouth or eyes

The chopped green chillies are added to the onion mixture

Some garam masala is then added and cooked for one minute

Chopped small Campari tomatoes and half a teaspoon of chilli flakes 
are added and cooked for two minutes

The tomatoes are cooked for about two minutes

The sauce evolves in complexity so quickly as it cooks

Some boiling water is added to the tomatoes as they cook down, 
and it's beginning to look like a curry - the aroma is wonderful!

The sauce becomes much richer and develops into a thick sauce 

The hake and marinade are added to the curry and cooked until the fish is cooked though

As the sauce continues to cook, the flavour becomes much richer and more complex. The hake and Bengali-style marinade are then added and cooked over a medium heat until the fish is cooked through. Before serving, a sprinkle of garam masala and handful of chopped cilantro are added to the curry, which is then transferred to a decorative bowl or for an extra flourish, traditional Indian copper serving dishes. A bowl of steamed basmati rice and easy Eggplant Bharta are a great addition to this delicious Punjabi Fish Curry.

The fish is cooked and the curry is complete

Sprinkled with the remaining garam masala and chopped cilantro, 
the Punjabi Hake Curry is ready to be served

Aged Basmati rice with a dollop of ghee and chopped cilantro

Eggplant Bharta with chopped cilantro - healthy, flavourful and delicious

And dinner is served!

Hot Punjabi Hake Curry with Bengali-Style Marinade
Serves 2
Adapted from a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's 'Curry Nation'

2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp mild red chilli powder
2 tbsp plain yogurt

For the curry:
1 lb hake, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp turmeric
2-3 hot green chillies, seeded and finely chopped
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt
2 medium tomatoes, or 8 Campari tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
4 tbsp finely chopped cilantro leaves

Mix together all of the ingredients for the marinade. Coat the hake chunks in the marinade, then cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

When ready to cook the curry, pour the oil into a karhai, wok or large heavy saucepan, and set over medium heat. Spoon in the cumin seeds, swirl and brown for 10 seconds. Add the chopped onions and sauté for about 15 minutes or until brown all over. Add the garlic, reduce the heat to low and stir for 2 minutes. Mix in the turmeric and stir for another minute.

Now add the green chillies, increase the heat to medium and stir for one minute. Mix in 1 1/2 teaspoons of the garam masala and stir for one minute. Add half the salt and all of the tomatoes and the chilli flakes. Cook for two minutes, then add 4 fluid ounces of boiling water, stirring to combine to make a thick sauce. Allow to simmer for three minutes, then add the remaining salt.

Stir in the hake and its marinade and cook over a medium heat until the fish is cooked through. Sprinkle in the remaining garam masala, fold in the chopped cilantro and serve.

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