Thai Fish Tray Bake

Thai Fish Tray Bake

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It’s getting warmer. I left the house without my puffer the other day. It felt quite liberating. Don’t laugh. Not unless you get winters like ours in which case it is a laughter of commiseration and I sort of want to fist bump you. Note to self: fist bumping is generally unnecessary unless you’re mimicking Baymax and Hiro from Big Hero 6 and it’s just you and your kids. Anyway back to the great weather. Unlike winter where my main outdoor activity is shoveling soon, warmer weather means I want to spend more time outside and less time inside cooking. That is the number one reason I love the idea of tray bakes. One pan dinners, minimal muss or fuss, healthy and tasty.

Thai Fish Tray Bake

Thai Fish Tray Bake

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Fish Salan or Fish Curry

That first tear of chapati (flatbread), that first swoop through the curry, that first morsel of glistening fish with a scatter of cilantro as it gets scooped up into your mouth, that is a moment I look forward to every time I make this fish salan. I love the subtle notes of the golden onion, the lone tomato, and the moderate amount of fenugreek. The whole spices are there, but less aggressively so resulting in a curry that seems so perfect for this time of the year.

Fish Salan or Fish Curry

I didn’t grow up eating a lot of fish, not unless you count fish fingers as fish. It is  only in recent years that I have started to cook it for a household that can’t live on chicken breasts alone and discovered how much I truly enjoy it’s delicacy. It is also an added bonus that once you’ve developed the curry part, the actual fish takes only minutes to cook meaning you could make the masala, set it aside and when you’re ready to eat it add the fish and finish the cooking.

My sister in law suggested adding fenugreek earlier in the cooking process and I find it works well, the flavor of the fenugreek seems to permeate the curry and the fish in a way my usual ‘last five minutes’ addition doesn’t. If you really enjoy the flavor of fenugreek you could easily double it here. If you are not a fan then leave it out and this will still be yummy.

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Crunchy Coconut Shrimp

I love 5 ingredient dishes and this is one of them – add something on the side and you’ve got a main. Serve on it’s own and you’ve got a delicious satisfying snack and all you need is lime, coconut, panko, egg, and shrimp. Shoot – and flour, but that’s optional so let’s call it a 5.5 ingredient dish shall we?

I love coconut shrimp, that slightly sweet ever so crunchy upgrade on classic fried shrimp. What makes these extra fun is the addition of panko and the zest of a lime.The panko bread crumbs add another airy yet crunchy element to the shrimp and the hint of lime heightens the coconut flavor.

Coconut Shrimp

The flour like I said is optional, but here is why I use it: I dislike naked shrimp. You know when you fry shrimp and only portions of it have crunch because despite your best effort the rest of it just won’t stay on? Once the shrimp goes into it’s egg bath the flour helps the crunchier elements adhere to the egg and covers the gaps between said crunchy elements to give you a shrimp that is evenly goldenly beautiful.

Coconut Shrimp

You are welcome to season as much as you like, but having made these a few time I must say I like it best when the subtle natural sweetness of the coconut shines through so a sprinkle of salt & pepper or a dash of fish sauce in the egg mixture is perfect for me.

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Prawn/Shrimp Masala – Shrimp in a Spicy Tomato Base

I’ve been told that my family’s love for food is perhaps not entirely ‘normal’. What do I know – it’s normal for me 😉

I do know though that sometimes we can overdo it like the time my eldest brother and I decided to order food for sehri/suhoor from Barbq Tonite, a Karachi institution and home of some incredibly tasty prawn masala. The prawn masala was not the only dish we ordered – if memory serves correctly it was one of eight of which only the naan and half a kabab were left after the two of us were done with it. In our defense it was Ramadan – we were clearly internally stockpiling food… camel like and all…

Shrimp/Prawn Masala

I don’t know what it is that makes that prawn masala so good and I suspect I could spend endless hours in the kitchen and never achieve an exact copy, but man this one hits the spot. It is spicy and unctuous with it’s tender yet firm shrimp, the tomatoes that have been softened, but still hold their shape, the traditional karhai flavours slightly muted and loads of bright green cilantro and green chillies. The net result? Finger lickin’ good.

Oh and I usually use shrimp because I always have them handy, but you are welcome to use prawn.

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Fish Kadhai/Karahi or Fish in Tomato Sauce

Is it Karahi or Kadhai? I get really confused by that.

Fortunately for all concerned I find it infinitely less confusing to make it. My biggest challenge with this dish was extricating pieces of spice laden tomato-y fish from the remarkably strong grip of my 6 month old as she tried to stuff it into her mouth.

Yes, folks, she has her mother’s natural (or is it unnatural?) enthusiasm for food. I just thought that this may not be an appropriate first food for her, best to stick to oatmeal and purees for now.

Anyway, I make my kadhais slightly differently now according to the meat I have. In a traditional chicken or beef karhai the meat gets put in first and I add more spices, but since fish cooks and breaks so easily I put it in last and hold back on garam masala etc. You are welcome to try this version with chicken as well, just add the chicken in right after the garlic, stir fry, then add spices and resume cooking according to directions.

Fish Kadhai
Serves 4

Boneless white fish fillets, 400g-500g
½ tsp turmeric powder
Juice of half a lemon
½ tsp salt for marinade
1 tbsp heaped kasuri methi i.e dried fenugreek leaves
½ tsp kalonji/nigella seeds
½ tsp cumin seed
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
8 tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp heaped red chilli flakes
5-6 cloves crushed garlic – or  1 tbsp garlic paste
Sprig curry leaves (optional)
2-4 green chillies finely sliced
Handful of chopped cilantro (optional)
A few lugs of vegetable/canola oil for your karhai/wok/saucepan

Cut your fish into fairly large chunks – mine were about 2*2 inches. Too small and they disintegrate fast. Sprinkle them with the turmeric powder, salt, and juice of one lemon and set aside. If you have a ‘fishy’ smelling fish then rinse the spices off and dry before cooking. If not then go ahead and leave them on.

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Warm oil in your pan and roughly chop your tomatoes. When the oil is hot add the seeds i.e. fenugreek, cumin, and kalonji.

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When the cumin darkens and the aroma of kalonji starts wafting through the air then add in the minced garlic and stir fry for a minute. Now it is time for the red chilli flakes and salt. Cook for a minute and then add your diced tomatoes

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Cook the tomatoes on high heat, stirring constantly until they get dark red and caramelly looking. This takes me about 10 minutes in a large wok.

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If you are up for it then taste your spice mix, adjust seasoning if necessary, then place your fish pieces in the pan and gently stir to coat.

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Drop the heat and add in your curry leaves & fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) and let it cook until your fish is just done. It is very easy to overcook fish so just be careful. Top with chopped green chillies, cilantro and serve alongside your bread of choice. I like mine with plain ol’ chapatti, but you could always use naan or pita bread.

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