Making a curry is a labour of love. The secret to making an authentically spicy and rich curry is time. Time at every step of the process: tempering the whole spices, browning the onions, cooking out the ground spices properly. There's just no substitute for time.
That's why quick cooking fish is a great choice of protein here. Salmon and monkfish work especially well. I was once a sceptic - I didn't think salmon and curry would be a good combo. But the meaty fish does work.
Dedicate the time to release maximum flavour and aroma from each and every ingredient in the sauce, make a big batch, then portion it out and refrigerate / freeze, ready to pull out in a pinch and cook the fish fresh. Your future lazy self will thank your past, wiser self.
Serves: 5-6 people
Time: 1 hour
* indicates optional ingredients
2 tbsp ghee / butter / other cooking oil
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/3 tsp mustard seeds
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
3 white onions, chopped
2 green chillies, sliced
10 curry leaves
2 tomatoes, blended/chopped
1.5 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli powder (ideally Kashmiri)
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 pouch Wild Fish Bone Broth
700ml water, or as required
3 tablespoons lime juice, or to taste
A pinch of sugar, to taste
6 salmon fillets, sliced into chunks/kept whole
* Fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
*Dash of cream (or yogurt/coconut yogurt)
Prep all your ingredients before starting to cook. Once things are hot you don't want to be flustering about!
Heat the ghee in a large pan. Once it's hot add the whole fennel, cumin, fenugreek and mustard seeds. Let them sizzle for a few seconds (don't burn!) then add the ginger.
Once the ginger has cooked out for about 30 seconds, add the onions, chillies and curry leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is browned. This takes a little while, but it's worth it!
Next add the tomatoes, and cook down a bit, until it turns a deeper red colour.
Add the ground spices. Cook down, stirring often, until the oil starts to leave the sides of the pan. This indicates that the spices have released their aromatic oils. i.e. delicious flavour. Do add a splash of boiling water if it starts to burn - burnt spices = bitter.
At this point, you should have a very enticing smelling paste in the pan. Add the tamarind paste, fish bone broth and 500ml of water to start with. Stir, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat. Taste for seasoning, sweetness and sourness, adding salt, lime juice and sugar as required.
Once you've perfected your sauce, blend it (a handheld blender is a timesaver here). Add water until it reaches the desired consistency. My preference is quite thick and creamy. Taste again for seasoning.
Now you might choose to set aside some of the sauce for future curry endeavours (fish, peeled boiled eggs or chicken are delicious). If you're cooking this in advance for friends, keep the sauce on a low heat and add the fish when your guests are ready to eat.
Place the salmon into the hot sauce, and leave to poach gently - don't let it boil. A few short minutes later, when the salmon flakes easily, it's ready.
To serve, swirl through some cream and sprinkle on coriander leaves. Serve with rice.