Fish 'collar' curry

Serves 4
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I do like a fish head curry. When I worked at the Dorchester, the Bangladeshi kitchen porters in the hotels used to take all our fish heads for their staff meals and make delicious fish curry. We all love having nice, chunky fillets of fish on our plate, but what happens to the rest of the fish? There's a lot more meat left on the head of some of those larger species of fish. In you're wondering what the collar is, it's the back of the head where the gills are -- and it's a meaty, gelatinous bit of the fish that isn't really bony as such, but has more of a plate structure surrounded by flesh.

The kitchen porters would dissect the head, leaving the meaty bits on the bone and make a really simple curry out of it. Because the flesh on the cheeks and collar is quite meaty it stands up to a bit of rapid curry cooking and doesn't disintegrate in the same way that a fillet would.

Ask your fishmonger to save you the collars from large fish like cod and halibut.

1.5kg fish collars
Salt and pepper
60g ghee or vegetable oil
3 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
5 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tbsp chopped root ginger
3 small, medium-strength chillis, seeded and finely chopped
1tsp cumin seeds
1/2tsp fenugreek seeds
1tsp cumin powder
1tsp freshly grated turmeric or 1tsp powder
1 pinch saffron strands
1tsp curry powder
Good pinch curry leaves
1/2tsp paprika
1tsp fennel seeds
1tsp mustard seeds
2tsp tomato purée
Half a lemon
1.3litre fish stock (a good cube will do)
3tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Season the pieces of fish with salt and pepper. Heat half of the ghee in a large, heavy-bottomed pan and fry the fish on a high heat until lightly coloured. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon and put to one side. Add the rest of the ghee to the pan and fry the onions, garlic, ginger and chilli for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add all of the rest of the spices and continue cooking for a couple of minutes with a lid on to release the flavours, stirring every so often.

Add the tomato purée, lemon and stock, bring to the boil, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 45 minutes. Take a cupful of the sauce from the pan and blend in a liquidiser until smooth and pour it back into the sauce. Add the pieces of fish and simmer for 15 minutes then add the coriander and simmer for a further 5 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with basmati rice.