Southern Indian Mackerel Curry

I bought a large piece of mackerel at the markets the other day. It was an impulse purchase and the more I thought about it, the less I was enthused about cooking it. It’s a strong, oily creature which, if I’m honest isn’t the most splendid of fish. However! After some cookery book investigation, I determined that the Indians prize this fish, especially in Southern India and Sri Lanka where they use it to make the most delicious curries. Now, I know some folk get very opinionated about putting a fish in a curry. Well, to this I would say, “millions of Indians can’t be wrong”. And let me tell you now, they’re not. This was the perfect solution to my fish quandary. A deliciously flavoursome dish that keeps all the character of the fish, but blended with a rich and satisfying sauce.

RECIPE:

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
25 curry leaves
2 onions (roughly chopped)
2 tomatoes (roughly chopped)
5 cloves garlic (roughly chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
500g mackerel steaks
3–5 green chillies
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
250ml coconut milk
1-2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup desiccated coconut (un-sweetened)
3 tablespoons fresh coriander (chopped)

DIRECTIONS:
To make the paste, blend together the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, chilli powder, turmeric and coriander in a food processor – or with a hand blender.

Heat the oil in a large pan over a moderate heat. When hot, add the fenugreek and cumin seeds and half the curry leaves and sizzle for 20 seconds. Add the onions and fry gently for 6-7 minutes until golden brown and soft.

Turn up the heat and add the paste to the pan. Cook for 8-10 minutes adding a splash of water half way through. Pour in 500ml water and bring to a simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the fish, salt and green chillies then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the tamarind paste, stir then add the coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Heat a small frying pan without any oil over a medium heat. Add the desiccated coconut and stir 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Pour into a waiting bowl.

SERVING:
Serve sprinkled with a generous sprinkle of coriander and desiccated coconut. Serve alongside plain boiled rice.

  • Sam

    Great recipe, thankyou, tried it last night and was really impressed, exactly what I was looking for.

    • leej

      Thanks Sam,

      Glad you enjoyed.

      I must remake this at some point!

  • marlene perth wa,

    could you please let me know what you mean by

    could you please let me know what you mean by adjust seasoning to your taste

    • leej

      By adjust seasoning to your taste I generally mean add more salt to suit how you like it. However, in this instant it could mean add more salt for saltiness or tamarind to make it more sour.

      Ta

      Lee

  • Rolfie

    You mention to add the remaining water in paragraph 3 but you do not state how much you started with anywhere!!! I am making this tomorrow (24th Sept) so need an answer please

    • Hi Rolfie,

      Apologies, I have amended the recipe to include the water amounts.

      Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

  • Michael

    Fresh mackerel is a bit underrated, but it’s packed with omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also great on the barbecue wrapped in foil. The Indonesians use it a lot as well. It’s also good either cold or hot smoked. And last but not least, over here in the Netherlands, it’s also very cheap.

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