Halibut with tomato-curry cream (Machhli Tamatar)

It always pleases me when I fiddle around with ingredients and find out that it’s already a Thing. The curried fish with tomatoes and creamy sauce I was thinking about turned out to be the Indian dish machhli tamatar, fancy that. I’ve been craving Indian spices – anise, cinnamon, fenugreek, ginger – all traditionally used medicinally for stimulating the appetite and aiding digestion. Plus, I’d picked up some amazing young ginger and fresh turmeric at the Asian grocery over the weekend, and was eager to use it. The halibut at New Seasons looked good, and I had a half pint of cherry tomatoes left in the coffers.

I carved out a curry paste from fresh curry leaves (in the freezer), a garlic clove, grated ginger and turmeric, mustard and fenugreek seeds, dhana jeera (a ground cumin and coriander blend), a little of my homemade seven-spice and a squirt of lemon juice (pound the shit out of it in the mortar and pestle until a paste forms). I smeared this into salted and peppered halibut fillets and let it marinate for a bit while I got the rice cooking.


I melted some butter and olive oil (instead of ghee) in a hot pan and tossed in sliced onions and the cherry tomatoes (halved). They hissed and sputtered for a bit, then in went the fish. After I flipped the fish (5 minutes or so) I added the tub’s last couple of tablespoons of crème fraîche. I think it’s more traditional to use yogurt and cream, but I didn’t have those and besides, crème fraîche is just another cultured cream product and this worked really well. Top the fish with micro-cilantro from the garden.

I also whipped up a quick chutney of mango, red chili and golden raisins (add a pinch of garam masala or seven-spice, plus a drib of lemon juice and honey) and this was refreshing with some warm naan.


Serve with peppermint sweet tea and basmati rice.