Friday, 31 December 2010

Poached Fish In A Mustard-Chile Sauce with Steamed Spinach

Not to sound un-Christmassy, but I am not even sure I like turkey anymore. I make the big bird for the kids every year, but now I am only too happy to pack up all the leftovers and send them home with said grown kids. Truth be known, I'm sort of looking forward to when they start families of their own and I can be the crazy grandma who brings pies and does dishes or something to that effect.

As soon as the turkey is out of the way, I crave highly seasoned savoury food. Like Indian food. This is adapted from one of my absolute favourite Indian cookery books, 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. If you are going to have only one Indian cookbook... okay, who is going to have only one Indian cookbook? Make sure you have room on your shelf for the other Indian love of my life, Madhur Jaffrey. Now, what was I saying? Oh yes. This is the perfect antidote for the Christmas carb fest - savoury spicy filets of tender fish with baby spinach delicately wilted over them and fluffy basmati rice to capture all the glorious pan juices.

Not for the faint of heart - there is some real heat with the chilies, mustard seeds, and especially the mustard oil. If you do not have mustard oil - go get some. There is nothing like it and no substitution. So go ahead and trundle off to your local Indian grocers. I'll wait.

Poached Fish In A Mustard Chile Sauce (Sorshe Maach)
With Steamed Spinach
adapted from 660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking - Raghavan Iyer
online recipe sourced from Big Flavors

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 pound skinless firm-fleshed fish fillets, such as cod, halibut, swordfish, sea bass, or pollock
1 tablespoon black or yellow mustard seeds
4 fresh Thai chilies
3 tablespoons mustard oil - do not substitute!
1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
2 big handfuls of baby spinach leaves

1. Sprinkle the turmeric over the fish, rubbing both sides of the fillets. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight, to allow the spice to flavor the fillets.

2. Combine the mustard seeds and chiles in a mortar, and grind and pound them with the pestle to release the mustard's nose-tingling aroma and to create a yellowish-green, slightly gritty paste. (Alternatively, you can grind the mustard seeds in a spice grinder until the texture resembles that of finely cracked black peppercorns. Finely chop the chiles, seeds and all, and add them to the ground mustard seeds.)

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pungent paste and stir-fry until it is sunny brown, about 1 minute. Quickly pour in 1/2 cup water, scraping the skillet to deglaze it, releasing the browned bits of spice. Stir in the salt and sugar.

4. Lay the fish fillets in a single layer in the skillet, let sear on one side and then flip over and spoon the sauce over them. Lower the heat to medium, throw the spinach in over the fish, cover the skillet, and poach the fillets until they are barely starting to flake, 5 to 7 minutes.

5. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and serve.