Dan Toombs’ Malabar Fish Curry

Serves: 4

I wasn’t sure about this curry at first glance.

Though anyone doubting Dan Toombs when it comes to Indian is brave. And so on I went.

What threw me was that the ingredients are boiled in water. No oil except for the fried shallots which are a garnish.

Conclusion. Brilliant. Aromatic and a delicious sauce.

I simmered the coconut mixture for longer though not intentionally. Perhaps it added to it, perhaps not.

Check your salt though get this right and you have a wonderful, entirely unique fish curry on your hands. Absolutely top notch.

Ingredients

1 1/2 c fresh or frozen coconut*
1/2 ground turmeric
1 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
2 tbsp minced ginger
1 green chilli, finely chopped
3 kokum peels or 2 tsp tamarind concentrate
500gm cod or other meaty fish like halibut or ling, cut into medium chunks
1 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
3 shallots, thinly sliced
Salt, to taste

Method

  1. Blend the coconut and turmeric into a fine paste or powder and set aside. **
  2. Bring 500ml of water to the boil in a pot (preferably a clay pot). Add the coconut mixture, chilli powder, ginger, green chilli and korum (or tamarind concentrate) and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the fish and simmer with the pan covered for a further 7 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small pan over a medium-high heat, When visibly hot, add the mustard seeds and when they begin to pop (30 seconds), reduce the heat to medium and stir in the curry leaves and shallots and fry until the shallots are soft and slightly browned.
  5. Pour over the curry; leave as a garnish and/or stir the oil into the curry. Check for season and salt as needed.

* Easily sourced in the freezer of an Indian grocer.

** I didn’t process and left the grated coconut combined with the turmeric. We loved the texture though the smoothness of the curry processed would be an equally lovely experience.

Christine Manfield’s (Indian) Mustard Fish

Serves: 4

Occasionally after cooking a dish we are compelled to immediately type it; even at the table whilst we finish a wine.

This is one such dish.

From the book Christine Manfield’s Indian Cooking Class, this is a knockout.

I chose barramundi rather than Murray cod, though any freshwater white fish would do.

Paste away!
And yoghurt both sides!

With some steamed rice and lots of coriander, wow. Subtle, sophisticated, just wonderful weekday cooking.

Ingredients

600gm (4 even fillets) of Murray Cod or similar
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp black mustard seeds, coarsely ground
2 tsp sea salt flakes
2 tsp wholegrain Dijon mustard*
2 tsp chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves
2 small green chillies, chopped
1 cup coriander leaves
1 tbsp mustard oil
100gm thick plain yoghurt

Method

  1. Prepare 4 sheets of foil and 4 sheets of baking paper of the same size, ensuring the sheets are big enough to wrap around the fillets. Place the ground spices, 1 tsp salt and wholegrain mustard in a bowl and mix to combine. Rub spice mixture liberally over the fish and set aside.
  2. Place the ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander leaves, remaining 1 tsp salt and the mustard oil in a food processor and blend to make a paste. Place in a bowl with the yoghurt and stir to combine. Spread the yoghurt mixture over both sides of the mixture. **
  3. Preheat oven to 220c. Place one sheet of baking paper on top of each sheet of foil and top with fish fillet and its yoghurt coating. Wrap the fish in the paper to secure before enclosing with the foil. Don’t wrap too tightly, the parcels can be slightly loose, just make sure they’re sealed tightly at both ends.
  4. Place in an oven side-by-side and bake for 10 minutes or until the fish is tender and just cooked. (Test this.) Remove from oven for 5 minutes to allow the juices to settle. Unwrap the fish, discarding foil and paper. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with steamed rice.

* I used straight Dijon. Nat feels I should have mixed in some wholegrain mustard. I disagree though will try next time and be found to be wrong.

** I didn’t blend the paste to make it a bit more rustic.

Nigel Slater’s Pork Belly with Peach Salsa

Serves: 4

Cudos where cudos are due.

My mother strongly suggested we cook this recipe, what with the narrow window where beautiful, ripe peaches are in season.

And we almost didn’t do it.

The fact that you’re reading it here would hopefully indicate that is was a win.

The spice rub and the salsa work so well together, especially if you get the crackling, really crackling. Leaving the belly in the fridge overnight, uncovered is a great way to achieve this, before adding the rub.

With a simple bowl of steamed rice and some Asian greens on the side, this was a wonderful, wonderful dinner and one which you should definitely try this summer.

While you can!

(Note: I did the salsa in a food processor and I am not sure why you wouldn’t.)

Ingredients

Pork belly, skin finely scored*
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp peanut oil
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp Chinese five spice
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped with seeds
3 peaches, peeled and finely chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 small bunch coriander, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
3 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Method

  1. Crush the garlic to a paste and combine with the soy sauce, peanut oil, salt, chilli flakes and five spice and spread over the skin and flesh of the pork and allow to marinate for at least 4 hours or ovenight.
  2. Preheat the over to 220c and roast the poek, skin-side up, for 20 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to 200c and continue roasting for another 40 – 50 minutes, or until the skin is dark and crisp.
  4. Toss together the spring onions, chilli, peaches, tomatoes, coriander, lime juice and olive oil, season and serve with the pork.

* Leave the belly in the freezer until it is starting to freeze and at this point, scoring is a much easier task.

Neil Perry’s Stir-Fried Blue Eye with Snake Beans

Serves: 4

Another cracking dried curry – which I love – and one from Neil Perry’s book Balance and Harmony: cooked by Nat no less as part of a long Covid lockdown lunch.

I appreciate that pastes can be painful on first inspection though take the time. This is how we make the food that we love, right?

Dried shrimp and shrimp paste are easily gettable and the rest is mainstream.

Enjoy. (I certainly did with a side-bowl of steamed white rice.)

Ingredients

300gm blue eye fillet, cut into bite sized pieces
8 snake beans, cut into 3cm pieces
100ml vegetable oil
2 tbsp grated palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp dried shrimp, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes

Spice Paste

1/2 tsp white peppercorns
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried long red chillies, deseeded, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and chopped
1 tsp sea salt
3 red shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp finely chopped galangal
1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer leaves removed, chopped
6 coriander roots, scraped and chopped
1 tsp Thai shrimp paste, wrapped in foil and roasted until fragrant

Method

  1. To make the spice paste, lightly roast the peppercorns, fennel and cumin seeds in a dry heavy-based pan until very fragrant and dark, then grind to a powder in a spice grinder. The pound all the past ingredients in a mortar and pestle until you have a fine paste. (Or use a blender, adding a little water if necessary.)
  2. Boil the beans until tender, then drain and refresh in iced water.
  3. Heat a wok until smoking. Add half the oil and, when hot, stir-fry the blue eye in batches until golden, then remove. Add the remaining oil to the pan and stir fry the spice paste until fragrant, then add the palm sugar, fish sauce, beans and shrimp and toss together. Return the blue eye to the wok and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Josh Niland’s John Dory Tagine

Serves: 6

Wow, this is a just a brilliant tagine.

The heat is perfect. The unusual addition of thyme and fish sauce and anchovies.

The f-you preserved lemon yoghurt.

And the pine nuts toasted with salt and then sherry vinegar.

I mean it when I say, skip now to that part of the recipe and simply do the pine nuts as a snack. They are addictive.

(If they lose their crunch, refresh them in a hot oven for a minute or two.)

This was our first Josh Niland recipe from his book Take One Fish and I really don’t know why we delayed buying his books or cooking his stuff. We have every other cookbook in the world, and there is a reason he won James Beard Book of the year.

We didn’t source John Dory darnes because we didn’t have the time to get to the markets; and also because we’re not entirely ready for whole fish-tail in our tagine. (It’s us Josh, not you.)

We cooked cubbed Snapper, though next time I’d do cubbed Dory or even Barramundi.

As Josh interestingly points out, the whole piece of John Dory tail with the bones means you get the addition of gelatine into the sauce which would just wonderfully balance it out: I guess it dependents on whether you’re a fish-tail tagine sort of person.

Either way, this tagine is absolutely on point. We just loved it.

Put the kids to bed, open a cold Chardonnay and do this next Saturday.

Ingredients

6 x 150gm John Dory tail shank chops or darnes (or 1kg firm white fish, cubbed)
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes
1/4 c currants
1/4 c coriander leaves
1/4 c mint leaves
Couscous to serve

Tagine Paste

1/4 c chilli flakes
1/4 c ras el hanout
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp ground turmeric
3 tsp sweet paprika
3 large onions, finely diced
6 large garlic cloves, finely grated
100gm peeled ginger coarsely chopped
2 long red chillies, seeds removed
12 thyme springs, leaves picked
1 bunch coriander, washed
1 bunch flat leaf (Italian) parsley, washed
12 salted anchovy fillets
1 c extra virgin olive oil

Tagine Base

100ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 x 400gm tins crushed tomatoes
1/2 star anise
500ml brown fish stock
Pinch of sea salt flakes
1 x 400gm tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large fennel bulb, coarsely diced
Generous pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 60ml boiling water
1/4 c honey
Zest of 1 orange
Lemon juice, to taste
Fish sauce

Salt and Vinegar Pine Nuts

1/2 c pine nuts
1 tsp fine salt
3 tsp sherry vinegar

Preserved Lemon Yoghurt

90gm preserved lemon, pith removed
350gm natural yoghurt

Method

  1. To make the tagine paste, blitz all the ingredients in a blender until completely smooth.
  2. For the tagine base, warm the olive oil in a large, wide-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the tagine paste and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, until thoroughly cooked out and aromatic. Add the crushed tomatoes, star anise, stock and salt. Brind to a simmer and cook for 25 – 30 minutes until thick and fragrant, then add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  3. Rub each of the John Dory shanks with a little olive oil and season lightly with salt flakes.
  4. Using a tagine pot or flameproof casserole dish with a fitted lid, pour in enough of the sauce to completely cover the base to a depth of roughly 2.5cm, then nestle the shanks/cubbed fish into the sauce. Bring to the boil over a medium-heat, then cover with the lid, reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer very gently for 6 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. (46 – 48c if cooking the tail). Remove from the heat and leave the residual heat of the tagine to finish cooking the fish.
  5. To make the salt and vinegar pine nuts, add the pine nuts and salt to a dry frying pan and set over a high heat and toast for 3 – 4 minutes, tossing the nuts as you go, until evenly coloured all over.
  6. Add the sherry vinegar and continue to cook, tossing for 2 minutes until the nuts are thoroughly dried out. Remove from the heat.
  7. For the preserved lemon yoghurt, place the preserved lemon in a blender and blitz to a fine paste, adding a splash of warm water if necessary to deliver a simply smooth finish. Stir into the yoghurt and set aside until needed.
  8. To serve, bring the tagline to the table and serve with the pine nuts, preserved lemon yoghurt, currants, coriander, mint leaves and couscous.

Sophie Wright’s Steamed Sea Bream with Ginger, Chilli and Spring Onion

Serves: 2

Sophie Wright was a star on the British food scene about 10 years ago with two highly regarded cookbooks launched within a few years of each other.

This is one of the recipes from her second book.

Nat served this for lunch and wow did the conversation pivot to why we were not steaming enough Asian fish in our lives.

This is a classic recipe. The ginger, the chilli, the spring onions, the soy and sesame oil… classic.

The only change I would make would be to use a thicker fish such as barramundi, though the subtlety of the sea bream is definitely a thing, especially if serving as part of a banquet.

Monday night, Sunday-lunch banquet, either way… serve this with some rice, lemon wedges and Chinese greens and you will win the night… or the lunch.

Ingredients

2 sea bream fillets, pin-boned
3cm piece of ginger sliced into very thin strips
1 large green chilli, seeds removed sliced at an angle
6 spring onions, trimmed and shredded
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar
Handful of coriander leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges
Steamed rice and green vegetables to serve

Method

  1. Place a wok or saucepan with a steamer on the stove and half fill the wok with boiling water. Cover with a lid.
  2. Lay the fish fillets, skin-side down on a plate that fits in the steamer. Sprinkle the ginger chilli and half the spring onion over the fish. Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and vinegar in a bowl and pour over the fish.
  3. Place the plate in the steamer and cover with a lid. Leave to steam over a medium heat for about 6 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.
  4. Serve the fish with all the ginger chilli and spring onion on top and sprinkle with coriander leaves and remaining spring onion. Pour any juices that are on the plate over the fish and serve with a wedge of lime, steamed rice and green vegetables.

White Chicken Chilli

Serves: 8

Some of my most enthusiastic type-ups are chillies.

Because chillies are just so good on so many levels:

  • Even the healthiest taste amazing.
  • They’re set and forgets cooking wise.
  • You’re happy to end them night-after-night.
  • They go so well on toast.
  • They freeze.

This white chicken chilli checks all of these boxes and then some. It is just so satisfying.

If you’re an elite athlete, add avocado, tortilla chips and shredded cheese. If you’re me, add lots of coriander.

Either way.

Make Monday night a good one, open a cold beer and enjoy with Squid Games or Ted Lasoo or whatever you’re streaming!

Ingredients

1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 c chicken stock
3 long green chillies, finely diced
1 12 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
250gm light cream cheese
1 1/4 c frozen or fresh corn
400gm can cannellini beans
2 1/2 cups shredded, poached chicken breast (or BBQ chicken)
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp chopped coriander plus more for serving
Tortilla chips, shredded tasty cheese, avocado for serving

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the onion and sautéed until coloured. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds longer.
  2. Add the chicken stock, green chillies, cumin, paprika, oregano, coriander, cayenne and season to taste. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse the cannellini beans and measure 1 cup, setting the balance aside. Transfer the 1 cup of beans to a food processor along with 1/4 cup of the stock from the soup and purée until nearly smooth.
  4. Add the cream cheese, corn, whole beans and puréed beans to the soup, stir and simmer for another 10 minutes, ensuring the cream cheese dissolves.
  5. Stir in the chicken, fresh lime juice and coriander. Warm through and serve with the accompaniments.

Roast Ocean Trout with Chilli-Turmeric Paste

Serves: 4

This recipe is awesome.

Think a good lashing of a wonderful, oily paste on a thick piece of ocean trout (or salmon), roasted at a high temperature.

Served hot with a drizzle of coconut cream and a squeeze of lime, this is what you would call vibrant. I mean, ocean trout in any setting is the finest of the fish, though add this wonderful paste and this is just moorish.

It would be just as good with barramundi or even chicken breast.

Just make sure you have a glass of cold, crisp white ready to go!

Ingredients

4 fillets of ocean trout
Coconut cream, for drizzling
Lime wedges and steamed rice, to serve

Spice paste

4 long red chillies, seeds removed
1 lemongrass stalk, white part, finely chopped
10gm piece of turmeric, coarsely chopped
1 small golden shallot
2 tsp dry-roasted, coarsely ground coriander seeds
1/4 c olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 240C. For spice paste, using a hand-blender, blitz ingredients with a pinch of salt until smooth.
  2. Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add spice paste and stir until lightly roasted (1 – 2 minutes), then set aside to cool.
  3. Spread spice paste over fish and bake until just cooked through (8 minutes for medium-rare). To finish, drizzle fish with coconut cream and squeezed lime juice. Serve with rice.

Chin Chin’s Bo La Lot

Makes: 20

Nat cooked these as part of a Chin Chin-themed afternoon (great Melbourne and Sydney South East Asian noshery) and wow, they’re great. Hot, juicy, absolutely full of flavour, totally fun.

We grilled them and ate them on the spot.

So good!

As part of an afternoon with friends, these would be perfect with cold beers and lots of other hot, Asian nibbles on the grill.

(Fingers crossed Sydney’s lockdown ends by Christmas so we can do just that!)

Ingredients

1 stalk lemongrass (pale part only), chopped
1 large red chilli, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 bunch coriander root, chopped
1 tsp black peppercorns
300gm wagyu beef mince
1 tsp mild curry powder
1/2 bunch miny leaves, picked, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp caster sugar
20 betel leaves*
1 tbs ground roast rice**
1/2 cup nahm jim jaew
4 lemon cheeks
20 toothpicks, soaked in water

Method

  1. Pound or blitz the lemongrass, chilli, shallot, garlic, coriander root and pepper to make a paste.
  2. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients down to and including the caster sugar, before checking the seasoning.
  3. Roll the mixture into 20 balls of equal size.
  4. Roll the balls into individual betal leaves an ‘sew’ each together with a toothpick.
  5. Heat a chargrill pan (or grill) and cook the parcels for about 90 seconds each side.
  6. Garnish with ground roast rice and serve with a dash of nahm jim jaew and some lemon cheeks for squeezing.

* I wandered into our local Thai restauarnt who was happy to sell me a bag. Harris Markets and other fancy fruit and vegetable shops I went to in the Lower North Shore of Sydney came up stumps. Speaks to the size of the Thai community in my part of town I guess.

**Roast rice in a pan until golden. Allow to cool and then blitz in a spice grinder until ground. Store in a dry container.

Chin Chin’s Naum Jim Jaew 2

Makes: 1 1/2 cups

Many years ago – together with my mother – we went on Royal Thai dive, inspired mainly by David Thompson. So much so in fact, we did a the Royal Thai course at our local TAFE!

One of staples of Royal Thai is Naum Jim, a wonderfully hot, salty and sour sauce.

This interpretation from Chin Chin (of Melbourne and now Sydney fame) is on the money and our favourite weekday use of it, is to steam or pan fry some barramundi and then to pour over Nahm Jim. Serve along side some Asian greens tossed with sesame, soy, oyster, Chinese cooking wine and some dark caramel.

Healthy and yum!

Stored in the fridge for a few weeks so well worth the effort.

Ingredients

12 birds-eye chillies, chopped
6 large red chillies, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 shallots, chopped
2 tbs grated palm sugar
1/3 c tamarind water
2/3 cfish sauce
2 tbs ground roast rice*

Method

  1. Blitz the chillies, garlic, shallot and palm sugar. Add the tamarind water, fish sauce and ground roast rice, stir checking for seasoning. Should be hot, salty and sour.

* Roast rice in a pan until golden. Allow to cool and then blitz in a spice grinder until ground. Store in a dry container.