This is one of those recipes I’m super excited to have added to my repertoire: it’s very (very) easy, it can be whipped up from 100% pantry ingredients, and once it’s on the table it tastes and feels like a much more sophisticated dish, the kind that makes you sigh with pride and content and say, “We eat pretty well around here, don’t we?”
It started out as the 20-minute fish curry in Meera Sodha’s excellent book, Made in India, Cooked in Britain, which I own in its British edition and have used multiple times with great success. Her original recipe is for an Indian-style curry without the coconut milk, but after several iterations in my kitchen it has taken on Southeast Asian flavors (lemongrass, basil or cilantro, lime juice) that make it a little bit Thai as well.
An amazingly easy fish curry
I apologize to purists of either cuisine in advance, but the result is a fine curry, richly favorful and clean-tasting, that does really well on its own or served over rice. My current preference goes to this sticky rice, which I throw into the rice cooker Maxence talked me into buying despite my reluctance (rice cooks just fine in a regular pan on the stove! we don’t need a specialized appliance!), and I now love and cherish (perfect rice! every time! no need to watch or time or anything!).
Since settling on this wonderful fish curry formula, I now make sure I keep on hand a can of coconut milk, a jar of whole peeled tomatoes, and fish fillets in the freezer at all times (the spices, onions, and fresh ginger I always have around), and I throw the curry together almost on a weekly basis. Although I’ve only made it for our family meals so far, it is without a doubt a company-worthy dish, one you could even pull off for a weeknight dinner party, possibly followed by this vanilla-roasted pineapple.
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- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 stalk lemongrass, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 400 grams (14 ounces) tomatoes, either fresh and coarsely chopped, or drained from a jar of whole peeled tomatoes
- 200 ml (6 3/4 ounces) full-fat coconut milk (= half of a standard can)
- 1 small fresh chili pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
- Optional vegetables: green peas, sugar peas, sliced chard greens or spinach leaves
- 600 grams (1 1/3 pounds) fillets of mild-flavored, sustainable white fish of your choice
- Fresh Thai basil, thinly sliced, or cilantro leaves
- Lime juice, for serving
- Thai or basmati rice, cooked, for serving
- In a large skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, coriander, mustard, cumin, and salt, and stir to combine. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes and, if they are from a jar, crush them into chunks with your spoon or spatula. (I use these Earlywood flat spatulas in most of my cooking, and they are especially handy here.)
- Add the coconut milk and chili pepper, if using, stir, and bring to a simmer. If you wish to include some of the optional vegetables listed, add them now. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced and the optional vegetables are al dente.
- Dice the fish into 2- to 4-cm (3/4- to 1 1/2-inch) pieces, depending on how firm the flesh of that fish is: if it's a fish that tends to flake easily when cooked, it's best to keep it in larger pieces so it won't fall apart in the sauce too much.
- Add the fish to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes, until the fish is cooked through.
- Top with herbs and a squeeze of lime juice, and serve immediately, over rice if desired.