Vikrant Kapoor’s Pan-roasted Barramundi (Lasooni Tali Machli)

Serves: 4

We recently ticked another thing off the bucket list: India!

We spent two nights at the incredible Mountbatten Lodge in Ranakpur, jungles about two hours out of Udaipur. Four absolutely luxury villas, just incredible food, G&Ts until late by the fire. The local temple is absolutely extraordinary. We spent an hour and trust us, we aren’t temple people.

What an absolutely incredible country. The people, the culture, the history, the sheer size of it, the organised chaos and of course the food.

Walking through the spice markets of Old Delhi, trying the street food or eating a banquet by the fire after walking with the elephants. (Not on the elephants to be clear!)

Every meal was excellent. The spices sing. Course after course of okra and potato and eggplant and breads flat, puffed, crisped, fried. Oh, and don’t get me started on Colonial Indian food. Just incredible.

So, does Indian food in India taste different to Indian food in Australia?

Largely, yes.

It’s more unique. It’s more flavoursome. Techniques are rolled into techniques: steam, peel, fry, stuff and tandoor potatoes. Or tomatoes. As just two examples.

We looked in a few bookstores – chaos in themselves – for at least one book to take home and India Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant kept coming up. 1,000 recipes to be sure.

And after a cross check with the many memorable dishes we had had over our two weeks, it was a no-brainer.

The book contains some recipes from guest chefs and this barramundi from the man behind Sydney’s own Zaafran – Vikrant Kapoor – is just excellent. Like nothing you would otherwise eat in Sydney.

This is Indian food. As in Indian food you would eat in India.

(I have adapted the recipe slightly to serve 4; the other is that I baked the fish rather than frying. It was wonderful, though frying would have its own great outcome too.)

Ingredients

4 skinless, boneless barramundi fillets
Juice of 1 lime
Vegetable oil, for pan frying
Salt

For the marinade

Juice of 1 lime
3 tsp garlic paste*
2 tsp green chilli paste
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp cornflour
2 pinches of ground white pepper

Method

  1. Put the barramundi fillets in a shallow, non-metallic dish. Season with salt and sprinkle with lime juice.
  2. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and then rub the marinade all over the fillets. Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  3. Brush a little oil on a non-stick pan and heat the pan over a medium heat. Add the fish and pan-fry for 3 – 5 minutes on both sides, or until cooked.

* 5 heads of peeled garlic blended with 3 tbsp water; or use store bought from an Indian grocer as we now do.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Fish Koftas in Ancho Chilli and Tomato Sauce

Serves: 4

The genius Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest book – Test Kitchen, Shelf Love – was one of my presents for Nat this Christmas just gone.

We’re spending the week post-Christmas, laying low. Waking up late, cooking or eating out, opening a Champagne each day no later than 1.

I kicked it off with this recipe last night.

It is just excellent.

With fluffy white rice and yoghurt to cool the spice kick, it is unique and particularly moorish.

The sauce can be made a day or two ahead meaning it is only a matter of frying the koftas when you need them.

Could not be easier. Could not be better for a lazy night in.

Cold beer essential.

And Merry Christmas 2021. Stay safe.

Ingredients

For the koftas

500gm firm sustainable white fish (e.g. cod, though we used barramundi)
4 spring onions, finely sliced
10gm dill plus extra to serve
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 egg, beaten
30gm panko crumbs
3 tbsp olive oil

For the tomato sauce

1 1/2 dried ancho chillies, stems removed
2 tsp caraway seeds toasted and roughly crushed
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 onion, roughly chopped
60ml olive oil
1 green chilli, halved lengthways
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 – 4 plum tomatoes, skinned and roughly grated
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp caster sugar
25gm fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper

Method

  1. For the sauce, put the ancho chillies into a small bowl and cover with plenty of boiling water. Leave to soften for 20 minutes then drain, discarding the liquid. Roughly chop the chillies, then put them in a food processor alone with two-thirds of the caraway and cumin, all the garlic, the onion and 2 tbsp of oil. Blitz to a coarse paste.
  2. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil in a large pan on a medium-high heat. Add the ancho paste, green chilli and tomato paste and cook for 7 minutes, stirring often, until softened and fragrant. Add the grated tomatoes, stock, 200ml of boiling water, the sugar, half the coriander, 1 1/4 tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Keep warm on a low heat until needed.
  3. Meanwhile, make the koftas. Finely chop the fish into 1/2 – 1cm pieces. Put them into a large bowl along with the spring onions, dill, chilli, lemon zest, egg, panko, the remaining coriander, the remaining caraway and cumin, 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper and mix well to combine. Form into 12 round fish cakes.
  4. Heat 1 1/2 tbsp of oil in a large frypan on a medium-high heat. Add half the koftas and fry for 2 1/2 minutes per side, until golden. Transfer to a plate, then repeat with the remaining oil and koftas.
  5. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the koftas, then turn the heat down and cook for 10 minutes, to cook through. Leave to sit for about 5 minutes then top with the extra dill leaves.