In my 22 years of running a restaurant in Australia, I have not seen so much anxiety and curiosity in my kitchen as I saw last Sunday, just a day before John (well, we all know who John is by now, he’s the man who puts visual life into my blogs) and I were to photograph a fish dish.
As it was fish, the focus of the debate centred around whether I was going to make a Keralan fish dish. One chef was convinced of it.
“No!” another chef immediately interjected, “he’s going to make his favourite Goan fish dish.”
“Never,” said another, taking both chefs by the shoulders and leaning against them both, “chef Joshi (that’s what they call me in my kitchen) will make a Mangalorean fish dish and he’s going to use a blue swimmer crab!!” and he winked at me knowingly and said, “isn’t that so, chef?”
Well, I like to do things my way as I’m sure my chefs know by now.
So guys, this week I am making a Hyderabadi-style machchi ka saalan, a fish dish that uses both tamarind and tomatoes. How’s that?!!
I learnt this dish from chef Chaman Lal at the Banjara hotel in Hyderabad way back in 1980, it’s such an amazing dish that uses a river or a lake fish rather than a saltwater fish.
For this recipe I am using barramundi.
Remember in Hyderabadi food turmeric is used in very small quantities , just to make a dish look bright and yes we use both tamarind and tomatoes (a blend of south and north!)
STEP 1 – Plate your seafood GARAM MASALA that we made last week and stored in our glass jar, remember?!!
Grind the spices
Add the rest of the spices. . .
(Try and keep the grinder dry at all times!). For this recipe you will be using 2 tablespoons of the seafood garam masala (any left over should be stored in a clean, glass jar in a dry place).
STEP 2 – Prepare your garlic, ginger and chilli pastes. Don’t be put off by doing this, it doesn’t take long at all and the taste is definitely worth it!
You will need 1 tablespoon garlic paste
For the garlic paste, if you grind the cloves in oil it keeps the garlic ‘fresh’ for about 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Making the ginger paste is just like making the garlic paste. (If you don’t scrape the skin off the tuber, the ginger will keep ‘fresh’ in the fridge for about 3 weeks.)
You will need 1 tablespoon ginger paste
Again, to make the green chilli paste (with the seeds retained, of course!) grind with oil and it will keep in the fridge for about 7 days.
You will need 1 tablespoon green chilli paste
If you snap-fry the kari leaves they will keep ‘fresh’ in the refrigerator for a few weeks. However, for this recipe try and use freshly fried kari leaves.
You will need 15 snap-fried kari (curry) leaves
Now that all your pastes are ready, let’s get on with our fish dish machchi ka saalan
1 kilogram barramundi chopped into 3-inch squares (about 2/3-inch thick)
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes with seed and skin left on
Now we’ve got our ingredients sorted, it’s time to start cooking. . .
Heat frying pan over moderate heat. Add 2 tablespoons polyunsaturated vegetable oil to pan and allow to smoke.
Add 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds and let crackle.
Add 2 cups chopped onions. And a hint! If you add the onions a little at a time this stops the oil cooling and the onions will cook better!
Then add the salt. Fold the onions and cook.
Keep cooking the onions until mildly caramelised.
Add 1 tablespoon garlic paste when the onions are mildly caramelised (light-golden).
Fold in garlic paste and cook till lightly caramelised.
Add 1 tablespoon ginger paste to the pan.
Fold in the ginger paste and continue cooking.
Then add 1 tablespoon green chilli paste.
Fold in the chilli paste and cook.
Now add 2 tablespoons seafood garam masala and fold in with the onion mixtures and cook until fragrant.
Add 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric to the pan.
Fold and cook the ground turmeric.
Then add 2 cups chopped tomatoes.
Fold the tomatoes and cook.
Continue cooking the tomatoes until they are soft.
Add 2 cups coconut cream and fold.
Keep folding the coconut cream, ensuring the cream does not come to the boil or else it might split.
Add 1 teaspoon tamarind paste and fold.
Keep folding the tamarind paste until bubbles appear.
Add the chopped fish to the pan, ensuring no pieces overlap (so that each piece cooks evenly).
Cover each piece with the sauce.
Cover frying pan with a lid and reduce heat to low.
Continue cooking, with lid on, for 10 minutes.
Remove lid and the sauce will have thickened.
Place the snap-fried kari (curry) leaves on top of the fish and let fish slow cook for a few minutes.
Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
Add 1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves and fold gently.
Next week we will use garam masala for vegetables. Hope to see you then!!
Anah daata sukhi bhava!!
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