Updated: May 8, 2021
by Pushpesh Pant from India Cookbook (Phaidon)
Prep time: 30 mins, plus soaking and marinating time
Cooking time: 30 minutes
600g /1lb 5oz skinless, firm white fish fillets, trimmed & cut into large cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
1 tomato, puréed
3 green chillies, slit in half lengthways & de-seeded
few okra, topped & tailed (optional)
chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves, to garnish
FOR THE MARINADE
1 teaspoon lemon juice
pinch of ground turmeric
pinch of salt
FOR THE SPICE PASTE
8 dried red chillies
80g / 2¾ oz (1 cup) grated fresh coconut (or 2 tbsp coconut cream/milk)
3 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1½ teaspoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon tamarind extract or paste
For the spice paste, put the dried red chillies in a bowl, pour in 250ml / 8fl oz (1 cup) water and soak for about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving 1–2 tablespoons of the soaking water.
To make the marinade, mix the lemon juice with a pinch each of turmeric and salt together in a bowl. Put the fish in a large shallow dish and rub with the marinade. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
To make the spice paste, put the soaked dried red chillies, coconut, coriander seeds, chopped onion, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, garlic, tamarind extract and the reserved soaking water in a blender or food processor and process to make smooth paste.
Heat the oil in a wide, shallow pan over medium heat, add the sliced onion and stir-fry for about 7–8 minutes. add the spice paste and cook for 6–7 minutes, or until golden brown, adding a little water if necessary to prevent the spice paste burning on the base (bottom) of the pan. Pour in 1 litre / 1¾ pints (4¼ cups) water and cook for a few minutes until the oil starts to separate from the spices. add the puréed tomato, green chillies and okra, if using, and season with salt. Continue to cook for about 6 minutes, then add the fish and cook for about 4–5 minutes, or until the fish is cooked. Garnish with coriander.