With spring just around the corner, my thoughts have been turning to more light and fresh meals. A cookbook which I frequently turn to during the warmer months is Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer (curiously re-titled as Nigella Fresh in the US). Not that it is necessarily a book which should only be opened once the weather starts to warm up - I often cook from this book in winter, too – but I like that it happens to be a book which I associate with summer, no matter the season I am in. Obviously what Nigella had intended when she wrote this book.
A recipe which I have earmarked since first purchasing the book, oh, 10 years ago (?!) but which I have regretfully never gotten around to making is the Keralan Fish Curry with Lemon Rice. With many thanks to Jodie over at the delightful and ever happy blog, Jo Blogs, I finally got the nudge that I needed after reading her insightful and playful review of this recipe.
Anyone who has lived in a country with close proximity to the ocean (like Australia) who has then moved to a land-locked country (like Switzerland), will know of the disappointment in finding fresh seafood, or a fish monger for that fact. In Australia, I was familiar with certain types of fish which my mum used to buy and cook, and I would faithfully replicate her recipes at home using the exact ingredients, right down to the brands of the food, often even going to the same butcher or fishmonger. Upon moving to Switzerland, I was sad to find that the likes of Silver Bream and Barramundi don’t quite make it to this side of the world, and I have been too nervous to sample the fish from the northern hemisphere, not least because any trial and error would cost me a small fortune.
But after some experimenting with the reasonably priced and fairly nice-tasting Pangasius, albeit imported all the way from Vietnam, I have at least found one type of fish which I am comfortable with using in Asian dishes.
This fish curry is surprisingly simple to make with not as many ingredients as you would expect from an ordinary curry. Simply flavoured with turmeric, ginger and cumin, this gentle curry is warming but without too much spice. And if you are tempted to add other ingredients to bulk it up – like I was – my advice is to try and refrain from fiddling with the recipe. It really is fabulous just as it is. The generous amount of onions are a main ingredient alongside the fish, instead of merely forming part of the flavour base.
Nigella suggests serving this with a Lemon Rice which you make by simply warming some oil in a medium saucepan before adding 250 g of basmati rice. Stir the rice in the pan, giving it a good coating of oil. Add half a teaspoon each of turmeric and dried mint, and stir some more. Finely zest one lemon directly into the rice and then squeeze in the juice of the lemon. Pour in about 500 ml of water and add a pinch of salt. Give everything a good stir before popping on the lid and turning down the heat to low. Let the rice cook for about 30 minutes, by which time the rice should have absorbed all of the liquid. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving. Nigella suggets toasting 1 tablespoon of black mustard seeds to sprinkle on the cooked rice, but I skipped this step, preferring to save on the washing. I found that the Lemon Rice took hardly anymore effort than making plain steamed rice, and it’s happy yellow but slightly sour tones complimented the tart tamarind taste of the fish curry.
The Lemon Rice apparently feeds 4 to 6 people, and given that Nigella isn’t the type to go for small portions, hubby and I were somewhat surprised that we finished all of the rice between ourselves. I’m sure Nigella would be proud
Overall, I found this to be an incredibly easy dish to make during the week. The bonus was not having to make a special trip to the Asian grocer for any unusual ingredients – I found everything easily at my local supermarket. I’m just sorry that I left it so long to try this amazing dish, something which I intend to make up for by adding it to my weekly favourites.