Bengali Monkfish Curry

It has been a few weeks since my last post — I spent about half of that time on vacation, cruising the Caribbean with Lolly — and in the meantime I have been anxious to jump back into the kitchen with some more Indian cuisine.  My collection of Indian spices has been growing at an alarming rate as I try new things — which brings me to today’s recipe.  I have been wanting to work with two ingredients in particular:  the Bengali spice blend called panch phoran, because it appears frequently in the recipes I have been reading; and monkfish, because I’ve never used it before and it has a cool name.  I was able to bring them together in this dish.

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Part of the fun with today’s recipe is that we get to break out the mortar and pestle to grind spices as part of our prep.    Panch phoran is a blend of equal parts fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds and nigella seeds — that’s a lot of seeds.  I didn’t need much so for now I just used a tablespoon of each and ground them up as fine as I could — the fenugreek seeds tend to be a bit stubborn that way, so some folks may prefer a spice grinder.  Whatever you don’t use for this recipe can be stored in an airtight container.

Once the prep work is done this dish comes together in just over 30 minutes.  Here are the ingredients for 4 hearty servings of this spicy, rich Indian fish stew:

  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 6 green chiles (Thai chiles will work)
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard powder
  • 1 1/2 lb. monkfish fillets
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. panch phoran
  • 3 cups cold water
  • cooked basmati rice to serve

In a dry skillet, combine the coriander seeds and cumin seeds, and roast them for about 2 minutes.  After they have cooled, grind them in a mortar and pestle and set them aside.  Slit the chiles lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Cut the monkfish fillets into bite-sized chunks.  Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2″ sticks.  That wraps up the prep work, so now we’re ready to start cooking in earnest.

Mix the peanut oil and dry mustard until thoroughly blended.  In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp. of the oil mixture until it just reaches the smoke point, and remove it from the heat to cool.  Reheat the oil over medium flame and add the fish, cooking one minute on each side.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the fish to a plate.

Add the rest of the oil to the skillet, followed by the potato slices, and sauté them for about 3 minutes.  Add the turmeric, salt, chiles, panch phoran and ground seeds, and sauté for another minute.  Next add the water and bring the mixture to a boil, then back it down to a simmer.  Cook until the potatoes start to become tender, about 12-15 minutes.  Add the fish and cook another 3-5 minutes until it is cooked through.

Now you’re ready to serve it up with some basmati rice.  The spicy curry kick is unmistakable, but it doesn’t last long.  The overall result is an intensely flavorful, tender stew that will fill you up and make you feel warm all over.  We munched it right down with a big happy grin on our faces, and you better believe I had seconds.  I hope you’ll enjoy it as well as we did.  Until next time:  Eat well, my friends!

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