Sea Bass Curry
by Mark Hix from Hooked: Adventures in Angling & Eating (Octopus)
You can use most species of fish for a curry, as long as it’s not fillets from a flaky-textured fish. Keeping the fish on the bone works to your advantage and you can go super-luxury, if you wish, by using lobster or crab. Some people may think it’s a bit of a waste putting good fish in a curry, but I totally disagree because curry is the most frequently eaten dish in Britain, and fish and shellfish both lend themselves to spice. Some of the best curries I’ve ever eaten were made with fish and shellfish, and the giant prawn curry I had at Tayyabs in Whitechapel, London, many years ago is the one I use as a benchmark.
1 sea bass, weighing 2kg (4lb 8oz) or more, descaled and gutted
(Nigel used wild sea bass fillets from Rockfish Seafood at Home)
60g (2.oz) ghee or vegetable oil
Flour, for dusting
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon grated turmeric root or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Pinch of saffron threads
Good pinch of curry leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon grated fresh root ginger
3 small, medium-strength chillies, finely chopped
2 teaspoons tomato puree
1.3 litres (2. pints) hot fish stock (2 good quality fish stock cubes dissolved in that amount of hot water is fine)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves
Salt and pepper
Basmati rice, to serve
Cut the head off the sea bass in a V-shape behind the fins near the gills. Remove any fins with a pair of scissors. Cut the fish into 3cm (1 inch) thick steaks through the bone, then cut each steak in half through the central bone so that you end up with 2 D- shaped cuts.
(Nigel used Rockfish wild sea bass fillets instead, pictured opposite).
Season the pieces of fish to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat half the ghee or oil in a large, heavy-based pan.
Lightly flour the fish, dusting off any excess, and fry over a high heat until lightly
coloured. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon and put to one side.
Add the rest of the ghee or oil to the pan and fry all the dry spices over a low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to colour.
Add the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies, and continue cooking and stirring for a few minutes until they begin to soften.
Add the tomato puree and stock, bring to the boil, season to taste and simmer for 45 minutes.
Take a cupful of the sauce from the pan and blend it in a blender until smooth, then pour it back into the sauce.
Add the pieces of fish and simmer for 8–10 minutes.
Add the coriander and simmer for a further 5 minutes, re-seasoning if necessary. Serve with basmati rice.