Ok I admit it… Yes I do have some weaknesses and sometimes convenience wins over pure gastronomic excellence that my kitchen is reputed to be famous for. Fish fingers, sausages, burgers and the very occasional pizza too, can also be seen at those times when I or Mrs Demonology just can’t be bothered . Yep I use convenience foods!
I have a busy life just like you, and sometimes I really can’t be bothered to peel onion and grate ginger; so give me convenience, with something that takes five minutes to eat and even less to prepare, meaning I am also not a stranger to the microwave meal when the going gets really tough. Although I do draw a line under that one by saying that my microwave meals are, as a general rule, coming from the chiller cabinet and when I do grab an Indian dish at this level it’s always of the fresh variety, and generally of very good quality considering it is daag based!
I don’t make my own pasta either, and can’t stand the dried variety, so confessions over, I am no stranger to convenience food. Fresh pasta bought from the aforementioned chiller cabinet at the local supermarket, boiled for five minutes with a nice sauce microwaved for less than the pasta’s five minutes boil time, a shaving or two of parmesan and job done, convenience food!
I was raised through the fifties and sixties and through that period the introduction of convenience foods became the norm, with the very famous VESTA being a curry that you just needed to add water too – ah I can feel myself salivating at the thought – and in all honesty was probably one of the reasons that I developed a love for the taste textures and myriad delights that are curry.
I am not afraid to say that not all convenience foods are bad or unhealthy, as the years have rolled by and the pressures of modern life have come to the fore; the day of the woman being chained to the stove and cooking her man a meal on his return from a busy day at the coal face are pretty much over with the nuclear family very much the norm today ensuring a place for the “Convenience foods” appearing to be the menu of choice for a great many people.
That said, there are a great number of convenience foods that are simply there as a shortcut in life. For instance, boil in the bag fish. Stick it into a pan of boiling water as the name suggests and Pow you have a “nice” piece of fish in a sauce, serve that with a pile of smooth buttered mash and a few garden peas and deliciousness awaits you, this is the comfort food of my youth. This plate of food I offer here is an homage to that; and the reasoning for all of the above inane ramblings in that this dish it is essentially fish and potatoes, but it is far from tricky to put together and it is also a long way from convenient, so sharpen your peeler, and dust off your measuring spoons its time to cook inconveniently!
This plate of food is a fusion of flavours from Hyderabad where the fish recipe originates and the potato dish from Awadhi; uniting together to become the Indian cousin of the fish and potatoes I was rattling on about before, although varied slightly in that the cold water Mackerel, the fish of choice here that is found swimming round the coasts of this great island in its tens of thousands, which however is not to be found in the Arabian sea or the Indian ocean so the fish I have used is local, and for those of you from pastures other than Northern Europe use any firm oily fish, so its all yours to enjoy as I have already!
This is a recipe for two to three persons, and I have laid it out so that it can be easily followed but as with all my recipes get yourself as prepared as you can before you light the stove!
To give it its Indian name…… for those of you that like to get your gums round that sort of thing
Shai Dum Ki machhali & Aloo Qorma
Preparing the Fish
500 gm Mackerel or similar oily firm fish
Marinade how to!
1 tblsp fresh chopped Coriander
1 tblsp fresh chopped mint
4 green Chillies de-seeded and slit lengthways
1 tblsp. garlic paste
1tblsp ginger paste
1 tsp ground turmeric
Put all of the above in a blender or pestle and mortar and grind to a fine consistency, rub the marinade into the fish, cover and place in the fridge for an hour minimum and a couple of hours for the best results
Whilst the marinade is doing its thing, it’s time to make up the following paste in which to cook the fish
The Paste Thing!
1 tbsp. roasted and ground cumin
1 tbsp. desiccated coconut
3 tsp sesame seeds
3 tsp Poppy seeds
Place the cumin, coconut, sesame and poppy seeds into a blender or pestle and mortar and grind to a smooth paste use a little water if required ….cover and set aside until required
The whats in the Aloo qorma (Potato Curry)
1 kg Potato peeled and quartered.. used Maris Piper, a nice fluffy potato when cooked.
1/4 tsp Ground Turmeric
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 inch fresh ginger Peeled
1tsp ground garlic
1tbsp Cashew Nuts
1tbsp desiccated coconut
4.5 fl oz .5 cup Ghee or Vegetable oil
2 green cardamom pods
2 inch Cinnamon stick
4 green Chillies
1 small tin chopped tomato
1/2 tsp Red chilli powder
8 fl oz 1 cup Natural plain Yoghurt
2 tblsp chopped fresh coriander
Juice of 1 lemon or 2 limes
After the fish has marinated, and before you are ready to cook the final dish, first boil the potatoes in a saucepan for about 15 minutes with the Turmeric, until just cooked bearing in mind that you will be finishing them off a little later….drain and set aside
Grind the poppy-seed, ginger, garlic, cashew nuts, and coconut in a pestle and mortar and set aside ready to bring the whole potato dish together whilst the fish is cooking
The final stage for the Fish
2 Onions finely chopped
300 ml fish or vegetable stock
1 tsp Turmeric
juice of 1 lemon
Take the two medium onions and some ghee or oil and fry the onions until light brown. Add a tsp of turmeric and the spice paste and fry for a few minutes longer, drain off any excess oil, add the lemon juice, and vegetable stock bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about fifteen minutes until reduced, then set aside until required…
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F Gas mark 7
Heat the remaining oil in a pan and add the fish and fry lightly for a few minutes
Place the fish carefully into a shallow dish and add the sauce. Cover tightly with a lid or foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the fish is cooked to your liking!
Now the fish is in the oven prepare the potato as follows
Heat the oil or ghee in a heavy base pan.
Add the whole spices and chillies and fry for a minute or two.
Add all the ground spices and fry for another minute or two
Add the chopped tomatoes and the boiled potato and cook for a further minute or two, season with salt.
Add the chilli powder and yoghurt, Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes more to heat the potato right through (ensure the potato is cooked)
Add the chopped coriander and remove the pan from the heat finally adding the lemon juice….
Serve with the fish and think of India on a warm summers evening, oh bliss……