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