Fish curries are among Sri Lanka's most popular dishes, which feature generous pieces of fresh fish or seafood swimming in bright, colourful, fragrantly-spiced broths, which tend to be thinner and more heavily spiced than many Indian versions. Rice is an ever-present antidote to these big flavours. A rich melting pot of cuisines. It seems every nationality that has visited and traded over the years has left its mark – the Dutch, Portuguese, English, Arabs, Malays, Moors and Indians, resulting in a cuisine that is more inclusive of non-native ingredients, brought by international trade moving through the island.
Along the coasts, one often finds fish, shrimp, or delicate local crab which absorbs brilliant Sri Lankan spices which include fenugreek, cardamom, cumin, fennel seed, cloves, coriander, kari leaves and local cinnamon, often called Ceylon cinnamon, after the island's former name. This sensational Sri Lankan-Style Monkfish Curry with spiced tomato and coconut sauce by Jamie Oliver, combines the vivid flavours of traditional a Sri Lankan fish curry using the tail meat of meaty firm textured monkfish, very similar in taste and texture to lobster, and stands up to the robust ingredients typical of this South Asian cuisine.
Sri Lankan-Style Monkfish Curry
Recipe courtesy of Jamie Oliver
1 lb monkfish, skinned and deboned
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 limes or lemons, zest and juice
7 oz brown or aged basmati rice
13 oz tin coconut milk
2 cloves of garlic
2-inch piece of ginger
2 fresh green chillies
10 ripe medium tomatoes, on the vine
Vegetable oil, as required
1 small handful of fresh curry leaves
3 cardamom pods
2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 knob of tamarind paste
Slice the monkfish into large chunks and pop in a non-reactive bowl, along with the turmeric, lime zest and juice and a large pinch of sea salt. Mix together to coat the fish, then leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Peel and finely slice the onions and garlic, peel and finely chop the ginger, then slice the chillies. Roughly chop the tomatoes, keeping them separate. Heat a large casserole pan over a medium–high heat and add a splash of oil, the onion, ginger, garlic, chillies and curry leaves. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onion is softened and coloured.
Smash the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar, then stir them into the pan along with the mustard seeds, cumin, fenugreek and turmeric. Fry for 1 minute. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, tamarind paste or syrup, the coconut milk and 1/2 cup of water, then simmer for 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to break down and the sauce reduces. The sauce can be covered and kept on low heat until ready to add the monkfish, adding additional water as necessary to keep the sauce loose.
Add the rice to a pan with water and a knob of butter or ghee, and cook according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile, finish the sauce.
Add the monkfish to the sauce and simmer until the fish is cooked through and opaque. Remove and discard the cardamom pods, then serve in a decorative bowl with the rice on the side.