Quick Bengali Fish Curry with Nigella Seeds

I still remember those Sunday mornings.
They were/are dedicated to the serious business of weekly food shopping in most Bengali households. So after a hearty breakfast of kochuri, cholar daal, jilipi/jalebi {stuffed fried bread, sweet lentil curry and a dessert}, bought over from the neighbourhood sweet shop and strong milky tea, my father would set off for the nearest bajar/bazar Lansdowne Market carrying with him his big, black umbrella, and several jute bags and one special bag for the fish. He would walk for 20 minutes, by passing Maddox Square Park to get to the market. He would be back in about two hours time, mostly he would walk back, but if the shopping got too heavy, he would take a hand pulled rickshaw. Once the shopping reached my mother's kitchen, she would take over. First and foremost the fish needed attention. My father generally got the fishmonger to do all the de-scaling, cutting and slicing. My mother would then meticulously wash the fish and divide it up for the week's meals and freeze them. 
For that day's lunch because fish tastes the best when it's fresh she would keep about 2 to 3 varieties, some she served fried with masalas, while some she made curries with. My dad would often help her in this washing and sorting, all the while giving her the news of the market, who he bumped into while shopping, the prices he paid for each fish, the amount of haggling he had to do, which was the most expensive fish in the market that morning. Sometimes my brother or me, we would be called to pass them a plate or put something in the fridge. This was a great inconvenience since Sunday morning was the prime television time for us kids.

Once the fish was sorted my mother turned her attention to the vegetables, sorting them out while she planned the week's menus. Last came the non perishable groceries.
In other homes Sunday lunches were/are synonymous with goat meat curry. It certainly was in my maternal grandfather's house. But my father never a fan of meat, refused to buy it. And my mother couldn't be bothered to queue up, so we never developed that tradition. She would make goat meat about twice a month, but never particularly on Sundays. 
Our Sunday lunches were all about fishes. One of my mother's quick fish curry recipes which is a really popular Bengali one is the fish curry with nigella seeds and mustard oil. If the fish is fresh she doesn't fry them before putting them in the curry. To tone down the fish smell a little mustard oil at the very end is used. The strong pungent smell of the mustard oil overpowers the fishy smell and the curry smells really nice. But if she uses frozen fish, she fries the fish pieces and then adds them to the gravy. Here in the UK to skip the frying the fish step, I have started using smoked mackerel fillets.
This is a tried and tasted recipe, and a quick and hassle free one too. It tastes awesome with hot, steamed rice. 

To make this curry you will need only a handful of ingredients. Needless to say this curry tastes the best with fresh fish, but give it a try with smoked mackerel, it's not bad.

{Can serve two with rice for lunch}
i. 250 grams of any fish. In Bengali kitchens mostly rui, bhetki, tyangra, chingri are used. I used smoked mackerel.
ii. 2 medium tomatoes or 4 small ones, cut into 4 pieces each
iii. 2 cloves of garlic, de-skinned and slightly crushed, no need to slice them
iv. 1 medium onion, roughly sliced
v. 3/4 green chillies snapped from the middle
vi. Half a tea spoon of nigella seeds
vii. Half a tea spoon of turmeric & red chilli powder
viii. 2 table spoons of mustard oil, or if you are not used to the pungent flavour, 1 table spoon of vegetable or sunflower oil
ix. Handful of chopped cilantro for garnish

How to make this fish curry:
i. If using fresh fish, please lightly coat the pieces of fish in turmeric, red chilly powder and salt and shallow fry them. Drain them on a kitchen towel and keep them aside.
Since I used smoked mackerel I skipped this step.
ii. In the same frying pan where you had shallowed fried the fish, keep about 1 table spoon of oil, you can drain the rest of the oil or discard it.
iii. Once the oil is smoking hot, lower the heat to medium low, add the nigella seeds. Let the nigella seeds pop.
iv. Then add the sliced onion and crushed garlic, fry for a couple of minutes till the onion turns slightly brown on the edges.
v. Then add the turmeric and the red chilli powder and mix well. Then add the tomato pieces, the green chillies and keep frying for a couple of minutes more.
vi. Once the smell of raw turmeric has vanished, add half a cup of water, salt to taste and bring it to a boil.
vii. Once it starts to boil, add the pieces of fish carefully.
viii. Cook for 10 minutes or so, cover the pan.
ix. After 10 minutes, uncover the pan, taste the salt, if needed, add a bit more water. 
x. Add the chopped cilantro and the mustard oil and after a minute or so switch off the heat.
xi. The fish curry is ready to be served.

You could also add some sliced potatoes to this curry. During the winter season my mother often adds fresh spring onions to this curry, love the taste of the tender green stalks in the gravy.

1 comment :

  1. Nothing, absolutely nothing beats the comfort of a kalo jeere kancha lanka maach with bhaat. My tummy is rumbling. Interesting you used Mackarel, I have never used that before. I will give it a try.


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