8 Nov 2013

Creative Cooking & An Easy Fish Curry

Part of my collection
Do you like collecting cookbooks? I have quite a few in my collection – the high priestess of Italian cooking Marcella Hazan rubs shoulders with master patissier Eric Lanlard and the delectable Nigella Lawson stands tall next to the reliable Sanjeev Kapoor

I recently bought a stack of new ones (read Of A Memorable Brunch and New Cookbooks) and my copy of Nigellissima is on its way even as I write this. Surprisingly, Jamie Oliver is missing – take a hint, Secret Santa!

Amongst the new acquisitions is a book that I find myself going back to quite often – Samar Halarnkar’s The Married Man’s Guide to Creative Cooking. I have already cooked several dishes out of this book, including the fish curry recipe that follows. In my previous post, I had written about another recipe from this book – homemade harissa, a versatile, spicy condiment that goes well with both veggies & meats. I used it to make Harissa Prawns with Hummus & Pita.

Halarnkar’s book is peppered with anecdotes and food memories; also with stories about why some of the dishes have such peculiar names – Bank Roast Chicken, Star Trek Aubergine, also a Chicken With No Name... Clearly creativity is not confined to the cooking! Written in an entertaining style, the book is full of little tips and tricks, including an entire chapter on how to entertain at home without getting all stressed about it. 

I highly recommend you buy the book.




The recipe that follows is the Welcome-Summer Fish Curry, which I have adapted a bit. The kokum (or aamsul) used in the recipe is the dried outer covering of a fruit belonging to the mangosteen family. It’s used extensively in the cuisine from coastal Maharashtra and Goa to impart tartness as well as a typical pinkish red colour.


Here’s my version of Halarnkar’s recipe. I had luckily found some excellent, fresh surmai fillets during my morning market run. Instead of frying them or making my usual fish curry, I decided to try this variation. It turned out mildly spicy with a silky texture due to the coconut milk. This recipe serves two people as main course. Adjust the spices as per your taste.

You’ll need:
  • 4 fillets of Kingfish (surmai) or any other fish that yields decent-sized fillets
  • 3 tbsp Oil
  • 1 ½ tsp Ginger-Garlic paste
  • 2 tsp red Chilli powder
  • 1 tsp Turmeric powder
  • 5-6 kokum soaked in 1 tbsp water
  • 200 ml thick Coconut Milk
  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp Asafoetida
  • 6-8 Curry Leaves
  • Salt to taste

How to:
  • Heat 2 tbsp oil and lightly fry ginger garlic paste. Add the red chilli powder, turmeric and 1 tsp salt and fry well.



  • Rub the fish fillets with this marinade and set aside. (I marinated the fish in the morning, refrigerated the fillets & made the curry for dinner.)



  • Heat the remaining oil and add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add asafoetida and curry leaves. Add the kokum along with water. Place the fish fillets in this and fry lightly on both sides.



  • Lower the flame and add coconut milk.
  • Don’t poke the fish around or constantly keep turning it. Hold the handles of the pan and swirl the contents about periodically. Do not let the curry boil else the coconut milk will split.
  • Once the fish is cooked, discard the kokum. Add salt and check the seasoning.
  • Serve hot with rice or chapatti.


So how many cookbooks do you own? Any favourites? Leave me a comment below. 

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