Friday, February 3, 2012

Bengali fish and potato curry

Next stop on my journey along the Great Trunk Road is a bengali fish and potato curry. Having promised myself to keep my tweaking to a minimum, I promptly broke my word on this one. The original recipe in Food of the Great Trunk Road was for kofee aloo jhol which means, I think, fish with potatoes and cauliflower. However, my kids aren't great cauliflower fans and I didn't think this seemed like the recipe to convert anyone, so I left out the cauliflower. I also replaced the recommended fish (bass) with a whole hake which I bought from my local fishmonger, and I replaced the water in the recipe with some stock. I was really pleased with the end result, and also enjoyed the fact that I had inadvertently created a Bengali version of a Spanish standby, hake with potatoes. (I thought I had already blogged this, but apparently I haven't.)

This is now the third recipe I have cooked from Food of the Great Trunk Road, and I'm very happy with my slightly obsessive decision to cook my way through it cover to cover (skipping any recipes I'm not in the mood for). The book itself is organised geographically, and following it like this means that I am already acquiring a feel for the signature Bengali ingredients of mustard oil and onion seeds, neither of which I had really appreciated before.

1 whole hake (about 1kg) - or use steaks or fillets of any reasonably firm-fleshed fish
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 kg potatoes
5 cm piece of ginger
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 tsps water
100 ml mustard oil
2 bay leaves
3 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
1 tsp onion seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt (less if your stock is salty)
400 ml stock (fish if you have it, otherwise vegetable or chicken)
juice of 1 lemon

  1. Remove the head and tail of the hake, reserving to make stock with. Cut the rest of the hake into thick steaks. Mix together the chilli powder and turmeric, rub half of it on the fish steaks and set aside.
  2. Peel the potatoes and slice them crosswise into 0.5 cm thick slices. Rub the remaining chilli and turmeric on them and set aside.
  3. Peel and chop the fresh ginger, and whizz it to a fine paste with the cumin seeds and 4 tsps of water. (If you don't have a spice mill, then just grate it finely or use minced ginger, and crush the cumin in a pestle and mortar.)
  4. Heat the oil in a large pan, and fry the potato slices in batches until they are cooked and golden but still firm. Remove to a bowl.
  5. In the same oil, fry the fish steaks for a couple of minutes, then remove.
  6. Now, gently fry the bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon and cloves for a minute or two, then add the onion seeds and fry for 30 seconds or so until they pop. Now add the ginger and cumin paste and stir fry for 2 minutes.
  7. Add the salt (if needed) and ground corinader, stir fry for a few seconds, then add the stock and bring to a boil.
  8. Add all the potatoes, then place the fish steaks on top, cover the pan and cook gently for about 10 minutes until the fish is just cooked.
  9. Squeeze over the lemon juice and serve.

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