In this recipe, the crisp-skinned, beautifully fresh white fish sits in a light and aromatic broth – it is important to use whole spices, as their flavour is lighter and zingier than ground spices, which can taste musty and stale. The tamarind adds a clean, sour taste.
1/2 tbsp black mustard seeds
5 cardamom pods
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp ghee (or butter if you can't find ghee)
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
20 fresh curry leaves
2 red chillies, seeds removed and cut into fine rounds
20 fresh curry leaves
2 tamarind pods
200g/7oz good-quality tinned tomatoes
1 knob of ghee
1kg/2lb wild sea bass, scaled, filleted and cut into 200g/7oz pieces
A good pinch of sea salt
200g/7oz cooked spinach
Place a large, heavy-based pan on a medium heat and, when gently smoking, add the mustard seeds, cardamom and fennel seeds and stir frequently until they begin to jump from the base of the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and add the ghee, onions and ginger, then cook for 15 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the chillies and curry leaves. Place the tamarind pods into a bowl and pour over 250ml/8fl oz of boiling water. Allow the pods to soak for 10 minutes, discarding their outer shells. Pour the tamarind water into the pan and cook for a further five minutes, then add the tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every now and then.
To cook the fish, heat the oven to 230C/450F/Gas8. Place a large, non-stick pan over a high heat on top of the stove, then add a knob of butter or ghee. Season the fish on both sides with salt and when the pan is really hot, lay the fish skin-side down and cook until the skin is golden brown – this will take a couple of minutes. Without turning the fish, place the pan on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for a further five minutes. Remove from the oven. Spoon a ladleful of broth into the base of a warm bowl and lay the fish on top. Serve with a little warm, cooked spinach, stirred through.
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