Living the Good Life…

My food blog & cookbook in progress

Yogurt fish

This one is for Salima and as many of my recipes with yogurt tend to be for, also for Louise and Belle as well. And Sanja too, although I don’t know if I’ve ever made this for her. Okay, so this is for all the usual suspects. But one more person whom I feel I must add to the list is my friend Hannes. He may or may not remember the episode or for that matter the meal (after all not everyone shapes memories around meals!) but his reaction after a dinner of this with Radha and me, was the ultimate compliment, and this is my way to say thank you.

I think I may have tried my hand at this recipe or something like this for the first time more than a decade ago, while visiting Ringo and Markus in Paris. And so naturally, they too must be among the dedicatees. Scratch among and replace with head the list. I stayed with them for about a week during which time I had free reign of the kitchen and took advantage nearly every evening, experimenting with all sorts of interesting ingredients from the French grocery stores. I hadn’t read Julia Child at the time, but when I read her autobiography recently, I was reminded of my week in 2000. But I digress. The recipe itself was my emulation of something I’d eaten at Shukla Aunty’s house, doi maach (sp?) which directly translates well, yogurt fish. A very Bengali way to prepare fish, since in Punjab they actually seem (seemed?) to believe that mixing yogurt and fish is a culinary taboo.

First question, what fish to use? Salmon with skin on is very nice, as is blue-fish (I’ve used it New Haven), and the kingfish from Gourmet Egypt. I think skin-on fish makes for better texture and taste, but I suppose any white fish will also do in a pinch. Cut into biggish chunks (more than bite sized but smaller than fillets) and sprinke with a little salt, turmeric, cayenne pepper (red chilly powder) and if desired black pepper. Heat some oil in a pan (if possible use mustard oil but this is by no means necessary) and place fish in pan skin down and allow to cook over a low flame. Meanwhile, whisk together yogurt with a little more salt (to taste and turmeric and cayenne). When the skin on the fish is crispy but not burnt, turn heat very low  flip over and then pour in the yogurt making sure it’s well distributed. Avoid stirring mixture too much with a ladle or spoon so as to not break up the fish. Heat until fish is just cooked, taking care not to allow yogurt to boil. Actually this works better if after flipping the fish you transfer to the lowest setting on a hot-plate or blacktop-like heating device.. something that distributes the heat.

To finish the dish, heat a few tsp of oil (same kind you used to fry the fish earlier) with a mixture of panch-phoron (if available) or a combination of available whole spices including mustard seeds, nigella seeds (kalonji), fenugreek, and fennel. When the seeds begin to sizzle (almost immediately) or the mustard pops, add a few slit green chillies to the oil and heat for a few seconds (until skin blisters), pour over the fish and serve. This dish is best accompanied by plain fresh basmati rice, with a fruity chutney and/or sautéed green veges on the side.

Oh, and Peter… this one should have you not just leee..cking the plate but also your fingers 😉

1 Comment»

  salima wrote @

Might be brave and try, although I have the Punjabi hesitation of mixing dahi with machly. Probably very yummy, though.
Guess who I inadvertently entertained on the night of the 11th? Prue Leith, the food critic. I just knew her as my friend Li-Da’s mother, and, being exhausted, served spag bol… yes. way to go. She was appreciative, at any rate, and teh company was good (i comfort myself).
miss you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: