Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fish Curry (Boatmans Curry)

Boatmans Curry 1

At I Heart Cooking Clubs, our theme this week is "Comforting Curries" - to be even more precise, a curry from the Queen of Indian food, Madhur Jaffrey.

When spring temperatures plummeted yesterday to the extent that merino sweaters had to be dragged out of the mothballs again, and I returned from the market cold and wet (yes, chilly temperatures were accompanied by teeming rain), a curry seemed like the perfect warm-me-up-pick-me-up kind of dinner.

A quick online search and I came up with Madhur Jaffrey's recipe for "Boatmans Curry".  As soon as I noticed that one of the ingredients was tamarind paste (one of my favourite flavours), I knew this was the dish.  I happened to have everything on hand that I needed, barring the fish, so after a quick trip down to the fishmonger I was good to go.

I don't mind a moderate amount of heat to my curries, but the same cannot be said for everyone else in my household.  So, I've adjusted Madhur's recipe quite a bit to really dial down the heat factor.  So much so, I was actually a little worried that I would find it a bit bland for my taste.  As it turned out, there is so much other flavour going on that it totally didn't need the extra heat.  I also made a couple of other little changes to the preparation, firstly because I didn't have fresh coconut, and also mincing my shallots up with the garlic and ginger, rather than keeping the onion separate, just because I prefer it that way.  What follows, is my version of the recipe.  Follow the link above if you want Madhur's original version with full throttle heat.

Boatmans Curry 2

Fish Curry Recipe
Adapted from recipe for Boatman's Curry by Madhur Jaffrey
Makes 3 generous servings
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

For the spice paste:
1 teaspoon chilli paste
1 tablespoon paprika
3 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1-1/4 cups long thread coconut
3/4 cup hot water

For the tamarind paste:
2-1/2 tablespoons tamarind paste
1x green chilli, seeds removed
2.5cm (1 inch) piece ginger, peeled & roughly chopped
2x cloves garlic, peeled & quartered
4x shallots, peeled & quartered
1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon oil (neutral flavour)
1/2 cup water
500g firm fleshed white fish, cut into large chunks
(I used trevally)
fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped

Begin with the spice paste.  Put coconut threads into a bowl and pour over the hot water.  Allow to soak for about 30 minutes to soften the coconut.  Then place coconut, and soaking liquid, along with all the other ingredients into a blender, and blitz until you have a smooth paste.  Remove from blender to a small bowl and set aside.

Now on to the tamarind paste.  Put all the ingredients into the blender, and again blitz until you have a smooth paste.

Heat oil in a medium sized, heavy bottomed pan over medium heat.  Add spice paste to the pan, along with the 1/2 cup of water.  Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.  Now add the tamarind paste to the pan, stir to combine, and simmer for a further 5 minutes.  Add the fish pieces to the pan, stir, and simmer until the fish is cooked through - about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add a little more water during the cooking process if you find the gravy is too thick.

Serve with plain basmati rice, and sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander.

I also served with with some raita and my recently made apple, plum and peach chutney.

Once we'd finished, I still had quite a bit of the gravy left over.  Don't be tempted to throw that away.  I reheated the leftover gravy today for lunch, adding some hard boiled eggs, for an instant egg curry.  As it turned out, this curry worked perfectly with the eggs, so that would be a great substitution for the fish if you happen to be vegetarian.

If you would like to get to know Madhur a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...


... or check out Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking and many of Madhur's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.

          Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery


  1. Well that has sorted out my dinner for tonight. I bought some tamarind paste and never yet used it. Loving your curry Posts.

    1. Hope you enjoy it, Julie - glad you've found a use for that tamarind paste. I love the tangy, sour flavour it brings - I often make a marinade for lamb mixing tamarind with brown sugar or maple syrup, and then throwing the lamb on the barbeque - always a winner.

  2. I've got my eye on this...for the first chance I have to get some decent fish. I'm too far inland. *sigh* Looks wonderful!!

    1. Gosh, here in New Zealand, where there is pretty much no part of the country that's more than two hours away from the sea, it's hard to imagine not being able to get good fish. Thanks for the reminder, Glennis, not to take this for granted and hope you can get your hands on some fish at some stage to give this a try.

  3. I had to smile at your use of the leftover gravy. Being a gravy girl, I would have done something along those lines too. It's a shame to throw out gravy! I've never used tamarind paste, so I had to google it--sounds like it has an interesting flavor.

    1. Definitely a shame to throw away the leftover curry gravy, especially as it always tastes even better the next day. Great to add veggies to, or I will often just have reheated gravy over some freshly steamed rice. Or if the gravy is really nice and thick, it is even good cold the next day spread on a leftover flat bread and rolled up for a kind of "curry sandwich" - I kid you not :-)

  4. Sue - I have never tasted tamarind paste before, but I have been looking high and low for it! Hopefully one day I will get my hands on some. I'd love to give it a go.

    This looks like a very comforting curry and I do have to say that I love your idea of pouring the remaining gravy over hard boiled eggs. I bet that was fantastic!

    1. Kim, tamarind adds a lovely kind of sour flavour to a dish. It's not the same, but you could substitute a bit of lime juice if you couldn't find tamarind paste.

      You can get tamarind in a couple of different forms. You can buy it in a block of the pulp, which then has to be soaked in hot water to draw off the paste. Much more convenient are tubs of tamarind concentrate. Both are usually available at most Asian style food markets. In the US you can probably also get it from somewhere like Whole Foods I imagine, or online from Amazon.

      Hope you can find some at some stage and give it a try.

  5. This fish curry looks delicious! I love the colour of the gravy. You made an egg curry with the leftover gravy is just wonderful, we do that too sometimes! The gravy always tastes better overnight! That's the great thing about curry!
    Delicious looking curry, Sue!

    1. Thanks, Joyce. You're right, the gravy always tastes better the next day. In fact if you had the time for this curry, you could make the gravy the day before, then just reheat and slip the fish right before you want to eat.

  6. I love that you reused the sauce with eggs! I love egg curries. And the fish curry sounds delicious. I need a fishmonger.... :-)

  7. Such a beautiful fish curry, love the recipe...turned out absolutely amazing! I love curries, especially in seafood:)

    1. I agree with you Elisabeth. There is something about seafood that seems to work so well in curries. It's kind of counter-intuitive in a way, isn't it, because you tend to expect that the flavour of the curry would overpower the delicate flavours of seafood, but somehow it only seems to enhance it.

  8. I've never had tamarind paste but will look for it now. This sounds so good.

    1. Tamarind paste is definitely a great little store cupboard ingredient to have on hand. I use it for lots of other things too - mix with some brown sugar as a marinade for barbequed chicken or lamb, even tamarind-glazed scallops like the ones I made in this post are great

  9. Hi Sue, yum - I like the sound of that recipe very much! And I love tamarind paste, it's one of those things that I associate a lot with home :-)

    P.S. I had chickpeas last night, prepped as per your comment on my blog - and it was too good!!

    1. Thanks, Mel - love those flavours that trigger something in our memory banks.

      So pleased you liked the chickpeas :-)

  10. Generally speaking, I know firmer, dense, white fishies tend to be milder in flavor and do really well on things like this. But before I go and destroy the last of my salmon - how do you think it would work on it?
    I'm beginning to think it might work better to make them separate and use the curry as a sauce.... but I'm definitely jonez'n for some fish curry now.

    1. Toby, I'm not altogether sure how this would work with salmon. The fish I used in this instance was trevally (don't know if you get that over there), which is an oily fish and quite strong in flavour - a little like mackarel. In theory I think the salmon should stand up to this quite well, but the main reason I'm reticent about this is that I once made a recipe for a Thai style salmon and pumpkin curry - actually a Nigella Lawson recipe, who I respect enormously - but for me although the dish was great (and I've repeated it several times with other fish and prawns), the salmon just didn't seem quite right to my palate. I think if you're keen to try the two together, your instinct to keep the them separate and use the curry as a sauce is spot on. Would love your feedback if you give it a try.

  11. Ohhh Great.. I Liked.




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