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?!!
Place the seafood garam masala mix, that you made last week, on a plate – there’s no need to pan fry the spices because they will be cooked with the rest of the ingredients (roasting them and adding them to the cooking process would overcook them making them go bitter) . . . If committed, use a pestle and mortar – I prefer an electric spice grinder!
(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).
grind for about 10 seconds.
the spice mix should be slightly coarser than sand . . .
it should be like ground coffee beans!!
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.
peeled garlic cloves
add the peeled garlic to the spice grinder
add the polyunsaturated vegetable oil (just enough to cover the garlic)
grind for about 20 seconds, or until a thick paste is formed
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
unpeeled, washed, fresh ginger
slice the ginger into spice grinder
add polyunsaturated oil to the sliced ginger (just enough to cover it).
grind the ginger and oil, for about 20 seconds, until it forms a 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
fresh green chillis sliced in half
break up the chillies into 1-inch pieces and place in the spice grinder
add the polyunsaturated vegetable oil
grind for 10 seconds, or until a smooth paste is formed
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
use fresh kari leaves
add vegetable oil to a hot frying pan and heat the vegetable oil until it starts smoking
pour hot oil on kari leaves
drain oil using sieve
Now that all your pastes are ready, let’s get on with our fish dish machchi ka saalan
cooking ingredients – lay out all your ingredients to cook the fish starting in a clockwise direction from the 12 o’clock position staring with: 2 tablespoons polyunsaturated vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, 2 cups chopped oinions, 11/2 teaspoons salt, garlic paste, ginger paste, green chilli paste, seafood garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, 2 cups chopped tomatoes with the seeds and skin left on, 2 cups coconut cream, 1 teaspoon tamarind paste, snap-fried kari leaves and 1 kg barramundi
to serve: 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 chopped coriander leaves
1 kg barramundi fish – 3 inch squares about 2/3 inch thick
Add 2 cups coconut cream and fold.
add coconut cream and fold
Keep folding the coconut cream, ensuring the cream does not come to the boil or else it might split.
fold in coconut cream, keep over moderate heat or else cream will separate
Keep folding the tamarind paste until bubbles appear.
place fish evenly onto sauce, minimising any overlap
Add the chopped fish to the pan, ensuring no pieces overlap (so that each piece cooks evenly).
cover fish with paste using spoon
Place the snap-fried kari (curry) leaves on top of the fish and let fish slow cook for a few minutes.
adding lemon juice
Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
add chopped coriander and fold
Add 1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves and fold gently.
serve with steamed rice and enjoy!
Next week we will use garam masala for vegetables. Hope to see you then!!
Anah daata sukhi bhava!!
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