Monkfish curry with coconut, lime and curry leaves

Skye Gyngell is my absolute food hero. Her flavour combinations are divine, every single one of her recipes are full-proof and the end result truly delicious. Sophisticated, uncomplicated, with taste and textures which will amaze, her cookbooks are at the top of my shelf and throughly leafed-through. I have already pre-ordered my copy of her new cookbook due out later in 2010 titled How I cook. As the weather shifts into full-on autumnal, I have turned to her book My Favourite Ingredients for some inspiration on curries and winter warmers. I have made a couple curries from this book now and this one is my favourite. The flavours are very quite intense and if you manage to get the balance between the salty fish sauce, palm sugar and lime juice right the result is a bowl full of loveliness.

It is a fact that in Oxford, it is quite hard to find fresh curry leaves. I went on a mission out to Cowley Road to the Indian spice shop there and found them. There is no point really using dried curry leaves as they are pretty much sad stale remnants of what used to be. I was also picking up some other ingredients and remembered I needed chickpea flour for making pakoras and bhajis. Little did I know that chickpea flour is the same as gram flour! amazing. I didn’t have a clue.

The base of the curry is a genius blend of softened, almost caramelised till sweet red onion, curry leaves, lime. The base of the curry is the most important aspect, doing this part right will put the intensity you need into the curry.  Instead of coconut milk I am sure it would work with cream as well.

Monkfish curry with coconut, lime and curry leaves

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 red onions, peeled and sliced

2 tsp mustard seeds

2 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

large bunch of coriander, stems chopped and leaves reserved

3 garlic cloves, crushed with a pinch of salt

2 red chillies, chopped (seeds kept)

10 fresh curry leaves

2 kaffir lime leaves

juice of 2 limes

2 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp palm sugar

2 x 340g tinned plum tomatoes

800g monkfish fillet

400ml tin coconut milk

In a heavy based saucepan, over a medium-low heat, add the butter and once this melts, add the onions. Cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes. In a separate small frying pan, toast the mustard, fennel and coriander seeds over a medium head till they release a slight aroma. Check to make sure that you do not over roast otherwise this will give the curry a bitter taste. Remove from heat, and while still warm, grind to a rough powder in a mortar and pestle.

Add the spices to the cooked, sweet onions along with the chopped coriander root and stems, garlic, chillies and curry leaves. Tear the kaffir lime leaves into rough pieces and add to the pan. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar, stir once or twice and turn up the heat a little. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Taste for flavouring: the curry base should be warm, slightly sweet but also sour. Add more lime or fish sauce to adjust to taste. To finish, add the coconut milk and then add the monkfish. Bring to the boil, cook for 3-4 minutes until the fish is just cooked (if it feels firm to the touch it is done). Scatter the coriander leaves and serve in bowls with rice or flat breads.

This recipe is from My favourite ingredients (Quadrille).