The other week I went on a ‘relaxing’ walking weekend with my sister and mum. Short walks were planned. Well, maybe planned is a bit of an exaggeration. Arguably, had it been a bit more planned we may have finished the short walks we set out on, instead of the marathon length ones we ended up completing. We saw a lot of the countryside; let’s leave it at that. After one such epic journey I sat down to a meal that will stay with me for a long time; a tamarind fish curry. At the time, tired and exceptionally hungry it tasted unbelievably good. I couldn’t wait to get home and try to replicate it. (Obviously after a long soak in a hot bath first.) Mostly to ascertain whether it was the hunger talking or whether it really was as delicious as I remembered. After a bit of research, I played around a bit then served up my version, braced for crushing disappointment. It never came. The resulting curry was just as deliciously fresh tasting as the first. Which was just as well. I really don’t have the time to be roaming the hills for hours working up my already rather healthy appetite.
There are probably quite a few of you out there that probably think that you’ve never come across tamarind, but you’d probably be wrong. It is, of course, an essential ingredient in that British staple Worcestershire sauce and has been splashed around (in that form at least) in British kitchens for a good few decades to date. Available in three forms (well that I know of); whole looking like a rather brown dried up broad (fava) bean pod, as a pulp or in a (rather runny) paste, it has a distinctive flavour that adds a very southern Indian flavour to your curries. Like its fellow spices from that region it is unbelievably good for you. Full of fibre, phytochemicals, minerals, tartaric acid and vitamins, tamarind should help lower your risk of developing cancer and diabetes and could help with weight management. If though, in the highly unlikely event that you don’t fancy it in such a delicious curry one night, you can still enjoy all of its health benefits. It makes the best marinade/ sauce for a satay style kebab; mixed up with fish sauce, peanut butter and coconut milk; perfect for barbecue season. Trust me; if you see some, pick it up. You really can’t go wrong.
Tamarind Fish Curry Recipe
Inspired by and adapted from here
750g fish cut into bite sized pieces (I used a fish pie style mix but any that you have lying around is good, or skip the fish and up the veggies instead)
2 onions, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 red chillies, diced
6 large tomatoes, chopped but not skinned
3-4 cms piece of ginger, grated
4 tsps turmeric
8 curry leaves
1 tsp each of black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsps tamarind paste
250g frozen petit pois
300g fresh baby leaves spinach
600-750 ml water depending on how much liquid you want
Salt and pepper
Mix together 2 tsps of the turmeric powder wth some salt and pepper and season the fish. Leave to one side.
Crush the garlic then slice the onions.
Heat a tbsp or so of oil in a pan and add the black mustard seeds, cumin and fenugreek and fry them for a minute or so.
Add the onions, ginger and chillies and move them around the pan for a few minutes then add the turmeric and ground coriander.
After a minute or so, chuck in the tomatoes. Using the wooden spoon bash them up a bit as they cook so that you have a great smelling pulp. Cook for around five mins then pour in the tamarind and your water. Bring to the boil and simmer for couple of mins just to let the flavours blend together.
Carefully add your fish and simmer for ten minutes but throw in the spinach and peas two minutes before the time is up.
Serve, covered in fresh chopped coriander alongside some basmati rice. Enjoy!