A few years back, I was fortunate to be part of a cooking club, a group of amazing women and home-chefs. At play were four mouthwatering cuisines- Turkish (you know Ozlem’s blog), English, Italian…and you guessed it; I took on the Indian leg of our culinary explorations.
Imagine the recipes and the flavors that got swapped around once a month; from homemade Turkish Hummus to English Trifle; to a family legacy Italian Pizza crust which is now our family’s favorite and my mom’s special Parsi Apricot Lamb.
It’s was pure cooking magic in each of our kitchens, as we proudly revealed our family recipes and personal favorites. This wasn’t just about cooking…we swapped cultural food stories and childhood memories of family meals gone by. But perhaps most important was the magical sight of all our families sitting around the dinner table, sharing a meal of our cooking club creations.
Well, last weekend, this cooking-miracle happened again when a dear friend, who has recently adopted a gluten-free diet, and I got a chance to cook together. As we measured and planned and chatted and laughed through the process, we created this awesome Parsi-style coconut-flavored curry.
Using a unique technique and special touches from one of mom’s Parsi fish curries and my simple blend of Indian spices, along with modern day conveniences like canned coconut milk (the authentic Parsi version uses fresh grated coconut) and ready to use tomato sauce, I’d like to present yet another Parsi-inspired keeper.
The best part of this curry, we both agreed, is that it can be used with any white fish or chicken thighs, shrimp or pork, or just a couple of your favorite vegetables. As always, pair our Coconut-flavored Tilapia Fish and Potatoes Curry with steaming hot basmati rice or good old buttered bread rolls.
1lb/about 3-4 Tilapia fish fillets, cut into 3 inch pieces
1 medium potato, peeled and cut in 3 inch cubes
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 tablespoons chickpeas or garbanzo beans flour (Besan)*
½ medium red onion
2-3 garlic cloves
1 Serrano pepper/2 Thai chili peppers
1 teaspoon ground red chili or Cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons salt + salt/pepper to season fish
2 teaspoons tamarind paste (replace with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, if required)
1 ½ cup (13.6 oz can) coconut milk
2 cups tomato sauce (or 4-5 fresh tomatoes, pureed)
2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
*Chickpeas or garbanzo beans flour called ‘Besan’ (its known as lentil flour when made with yellow gram lentils) is a healthy gluten-free alternative to wheat flour, easily available at most natural grocery stores. It is made with dried chickpeas or yellow lentils, roasted and ground to a flour consistency. If unable to get this flour, leave it out, the curry will be delicious but with a thinner consistency.
Season the fish pieces with salt/cracked black pepper and leave refrigerated till ready to use.
In a mini food processor, grind the onions, garlic and Serrano pepper/ Thai green chili to a smooth paste, add 1-2 teaspoon of water if required for grinding.
In a shallow pan on a low flame, heat canola oil with the chickpea/garbanzo beans flour, stirring continuously to avoid lumps (if they do appear, the lumps will melt away during the cooking process). Roast the flour for 1-2 minutes using a few teaspoons of water if it sticks to the pan. Add the minced onion-garlic-chili to the flour and cook till you smell the aromatics, about 3-5 minutes.
Next, toss the potatoes and spices/salt into the onion- flour mixture, cook for a few minutes. Stir in tamarind paste or lemon juice, coconut milk, tomato sauce and one cup of water. Cook covered for 15 minutes till the potatoes are done and the curry thickens.
Note: At this point, you can portion and freeze this curry preparation (minus the potatoes.)
When ready to serve, add the fish to boiling hot curry and cook for 5 minutes; do not overcook the fish since it continues to cook in the curry even after the stove is turned off.
Sprinkle cilantro on the Coconut-flavored Tilapia Fish and Potatoes Curry and serve hot over steaming basmati rice or with your favorite bread rolls.