A piece of freshly cooked fish without a squeeze of lemon is a serious crime against the laws of the kitchen. Well, at least in my book. The freshness and vibrant acidity simply lift the tender, white flesh to a more punchy realm and distill its flavor.
Tomatoes, with milder, milder acidity, can do something similar. But they also bring an earthy side, an echo of the flavor of the land. This is why tomato sauces – a whole range of them, varying wildly from one another depending on where they are cooked in the world – go so well with fish. They seem to blend the essences of land and sea into something new and utterly delicious, underscored by a much needed hint of acidity.
Spicy tomato and tamarind rasam with rainbow trout (above)
Rasam broth is so bold and intense that a simple seared fish is all you really want with it. Make this dish yours using any fish or seafood available to you, or make it vegan by adding cooked vegetables instead of fish (eggplant or potato would work well here). Serve on its own or with steamed white or brown rice.
Preperation 20 mins
to cook 1 hour
4 sustainably sourced rainbow trout fillets (520g), with the skin on (try using pieces cut in the middle, not tail cuts for this)
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
2 tablespoons of coriander, coarsely chopped
For the tamarind rasam
block of tamarind 50g (the wet Thai variety)
30g of ginger, the skin left and thinly sliced
15g of fresh turmeric, with the skin and thinly sliced
1 green chilli, roughly sliced, seeds and all (20g)
For the sauce
250g cherry tomatoes
2Â½ tablespoons sunflower oil
Â½ lemon, cut in half lengthwise, cut into Â¼ cm thick half-moons, seeded
1Â½ teaspoon cumin seeds, finely crushed in mortar
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
2 dried red peppers (the finger length variety)
2 stems curry leaves (about 20 sheets)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
3-4 Italian tomatoes (300g), coarsely grated and skinless (250g)
2 teaspoons of powdered sugar
Make the rasam: put the tamarind, ginger, turmeric, green pepper, 1.2 liters of water and a teaspoon of salt in a medium saucepan and put on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring to break up the tamarind pulp. Strain through a sieve into a large bowl, pressing to extract as much flavor as possible. Discard the solids.
Mix the tomatoes in a teaspoon and a half of oil and put a large sautÃ© pan over high heat. Once smoked, add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until charred and blistered – about five minutes – then set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium-high, add the lemons and cook until charred, about a minute per side, then set aside. Let the pan cool slightly then, over medium-high heat, add the remaining two tablespoons of oil to the pan along with the cumin and mustard seeds, the dried peppers, the curry leaves and the garlic, and fry. cook for a minute, until fragrant. Add the grated tomatoes and cook for another five minutes, then add the sugar, tamarind liquid, grilled tomatoes and half a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil again and simmer for eight minutes over medium heat.
While the sauce simmers, season the fillets with half a teaspoon of salt. Put a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of oil. Once hot, place the trout, skin side down, and cook for five minutes, or until the skin is golden and crisp. Using a spatula, gently place the trout fillets in the sauce, skin side up. Cook over medium heat for about four minutes, until just pink in the center (or longer if you like yours more cooked).
To serve, transfer the trout, skin side up, to four shallow bowls. Pour the rasam all around and add the lemons. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
Fish kofta with ancho pepper and tomato sauce
There’s a bit of heat here, so if you’re not in the heat, leave out the green chili peppers in the sauce and in the kofta. Alternatively, some Greek yogurt and plain rice will balance it out. Make a head start by making the sauce ahead of time; its flavors will only intensify if left in the refrigerator overnight.
Preperation 30 minutes
to cook 1h10
For the kofta
500g firm white fish (such as Cod), boneless and skinned
4 new onions, finely chopped (net weight 60g)
10g dill, coarsely chopped, plus additional plucked leaves to serve
1 green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1Â½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 egg, beaten
30 g panko breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons of olive oil
For the tomato sauce
15g dried ancho pepper (about 1Â½ peppers), stem removed
2 teaspoons of caraway seeds, toasted and coarsely crushed
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely crushed
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped (150g)
60 ml olive oil
1 green chilli, cut in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
3-4 plum tomatoes (400g), coarsely grated and skins discarded (300g net weight)
300 ml of chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons of powdered sugar
25g of coriander, coarsely chopped
Salt and black pepper
First, prepare the sauce. Put the ancho pepper in a small bowl, cover with plenty of boiling water and let soften for 20 minutes. Drain, discard the liquid, roughly chop the chilli then put in a food processor with two thirds of the cumin and cumin, all the garlic, onion and two tablespoons of oil, and mix into a coarse paste.
Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil to a large sautÃ© pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the ancho sauce, green chili and tomato paste and cook for seven minutes, stirring often, until softened and fragrant. Add the grated tomatoes, broth, 200 ml of water, sugar, half the cilantro, a teaspoon and a quarter of salt and a good grind of pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Keep warm over low heat until use.
Meanwhile, prepare the kofta. Cut the fish by hand into pieces of about Â½ to 1 cm. Place in a large bowl with the scallion, dill, chili, lemon zest, egg, panko, remaining cilantro, cumin and cumin, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and mix well to combine. Form 12 round fish patties, about 6-7 cm in diameter and about 55 g in size. Make sure you squeeze them well and compact them so that they stay together when frying.
Add a tablespoon and a half of oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the kofta and fry for five minutes, flipping halfway through cooking, until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate, then repeat with the remaining oil and kofta.
Bring the sauce back to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the kofta, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Let stand for about five minutes, garnish with additional dill leaves and serve straight from the pan.
Cajun shrimp, creamy tomato sauce and cheese polenta
This is an interpretation of the famous southern shrimp and grits of the United States. If you buy the shrimp with their shells and heads on, use them to make your own shellfish broth. You can get ahead by making the sauce well in advance, but don’t cook the shrimp and polenta until you’re ready to serve.
Preperation 30 minutes
to cook 50 minutes
75 ml olive oil
150g smoked cooking chorizo, casings discarded and coarsely crumbled into 1Â½ cm pieces
Â½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped in cubes of 1cm (net weight 120g)
1 green pepper, chopped in cubes of about 2Â½ cm
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
4 teaspoons of Cajun spice blend
1 can of Italian tomatoes, roughly crushed (400g)
1Â½ teaspoon of powdered sugar
Salt and black pepper
60 ml double cream
10g chives, cut into 1 Â½ cm lengths, plus an extra piece for serving
350 g large jumbo prawns (peeled and deveined)
For the polenta
500 ml of shellfish broth
350 ml whole milk
60 g unsalted butter, cut into cubes of about 2 cm
200g quick-cooking polenta
120g of Gruyere, coarsely grated
Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large sautÃ© pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chorizo ââand paprika and cook for about three minutes, or until golden brown and starting to turn crisp. Drain the chorizo ââoil through a sieve into a small bowl, set the chorizo ââ(and its oil) aside and return the pan to the heat with two more tablespoons of oil.
Add the onion and celery and cook until softened and lightly colored – about five minutes. Add the pepper, garlic and three teaspoons of Cajun spices and cook for one minute, until fragrant.
Add the tomatoes, sugar, chorizo, 250 ml of water, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and rich. Stir in the cream and chives and keep warm until ready to use.
Dry the shrimp, toss them in a medium bowl with the remaining teaspoon of Cajun spices, a third of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and set aside while you prepare the polenta.
Add the broth, milk, butter, 200 ml of water, a quarter teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a gentle boil, lower the heat to medium and slowly add the polenta, whisking continuously until completely combined. Continue whisking for about three minutes, or until the polenta is cooked but the mixture is still loose. Incorporate the GruyÃ¨re and set aside.
Add a teaspoon and a half of oil to a large sautÃ© pan over high heat. Once smoked, add half the shrimp and cook for about three minutes, turning them halfway through cooking, until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to the tomato sauce, add the remaining 1â2 teaspoons of oil and repeat with the remaining shrimp.
Divide the polenta among four plates. Top with shrimp and tomato sauce, then sprinkle with additional chives. Drizzle with the reserved chorizo ââoil and serve immediately.