So we’ve done fish Italian-style; now it’s time to do it Indian-style. Think tomatoes, garlic, fennel seed…wait that still sounds Italian. Okay, but then add some cumin, turmeric, cayenne, garam masala…. This takes things in an entirely different direction, making it hard to remember that it’s the exact same fish you just cooked last week.
You can skip the dry rub if you’re short on time. The sauce need only simmer for about 15 minutes, so you can fillet the fish at that point. Or, you know, buy it already filleted. I hear you can do that. Point is, it doesn’t take long. Serve the fish with ample sauce over basmati rice with some roasted cauliflower or stir-fried cabbage, and you will find yourself eating something on par with (or in some cases better) than what the local Indian restaurants serve.
Next up, roasted fish in a soy-ginger sauce.
Fish in an Indian-Spiced Tomato Sauce
Adjust the cayenne to your taste. I’ve reduced the amount here because my youngest complained, “My neck is spicing.”
1½ lbs. white fish fillets (cod, haddock, pollock, bass), cut into two-inch pieces
1¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. turmeric
2 pinches cayenne
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp. cumin
14 oz. tomatoes, canned is fine
¼ tsp. garam masala (if you don’t have this spice mix, add a pinch each of whatever of the following you have: cinnamon, black pepper, coriander, cardamom, and the tiniest pinch of cloves, and you’ll approximate it pretty well)
Pat the cod fillets dry and sprinkle with a mixture of ¼ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. turmeric, and a pinch of cayenne. Set aside for 30 minutes.
In a large skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the fennel and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the onion and garlic. Fry until the onion turns slightly brown, about 7 minutes. Add the cumin, remaining 1 tsp. salt, and the other pinch of cayenne, and stir. Add the tomatoes and their liquid as well as the garam masala. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and gently simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, until sauce starts to thicken and darken.
Nestle fish fillets into the sauce, spooning additional sauce on top. Cover pan and simmer gently over medium-low heat until fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes for thin fillets. Serve over basmati rice.
Source: Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Illustrated Indian Cookery (out of print).