Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Lightly curried Halibut with Fresh Tomato Chutney

This proved to be delicious. It requires restraint in the spicing of the halibut, but you can go to town on the flavouring of the spicy fresh chutney. The subtle flavouring and fine texture of the halibut contrastss with the strong, acidic, peppery chutney. Everything can be cooked in the time it takes to cook the plain basmati which complements the flavours so well. It can all be cooked in one frying pan, plus a pan for the rice. Serves 2.


  • 1 large fillet or 2-4 steaks of fresh halibut (enough for 2 people)
  • 2 tbsp oil for shallow frying (I used a blend of sunflower and groundnut)
  • basmati rice

Spicy crust for the fish:

  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 0.5 tsp ground paprika
  • 0.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • salt, black and white pepper

Fresh tomato chutney:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 10 small tasty tomatoes (or equivalent - enough for a good portion for two), roughly chopped
  • a handful of fresh coriander, including stalks, chopped (optionally also other herb leaves - try basil or mint)
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice of half a lemon or lime
  • freshly ground dried red chilli
  • a dash of tabasco sauce
  • a dash of worcester sauce
  • salt and pepper

First prepare the spicy flour to coat the fish. Put all of the spices in a pestle (or electric spice grinder) and grind finely. You can vary the spices to your taste. Mix with the flour. Spread the spicy flour out on a plate, and pat each fish fillet onto it, trying to get as much of the flour to stick to the fish as possible. Set aside. (Putting it in the fridge might help the flour to stick to the fish, and stop your cats from eating it, but I haven't tested this. Personally, I'd leave it out, because I don't want the fish to be too cold in the middle when it starts to cook.)

Put the rice on to cook. I prefer to do this by the absorption method in a cast-iron pan with a heavy lid. Use 1.5 times by volume the amount of water compared to rice. Bring the water to the boil. Salt, then add the rice, keeping the heat high and stirring gently and carefully with a wooden spoon or chopsticks. When almost all of the water has evaporated, stir one more time, then put the lid on. Turn off the heat and leave it until you're ready to eat it. It should be good any time from 5 to 20 minutes later. If it's longer, heat gently in the oven before serving.

Now make the chutney. Heat the oil on a low heat in a large frying pan. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the chopped shallot and cook gently for two minutes. Don't let them brown. Now add the garlic, either chopped very finely or pressed, and the chilli. Fry gently for another minute, then, still on the heat, add the lime juice and stir well. Add the tomatoes, tabasco and worcester sauce, and keep stirring. The idea is to mix the flavours and warm the tomatoes through, not to cook them thoroughly. When thoroughly mixed, set aside in a bowl. This can be allowed to cool for a few minutes while you cook the fish, and will be served warm.

We're going to shallow fry the fish. Wipe your frying pan clean and add enough oil to cover the bottom, to a depth of a few millimetres, so that it can fry the sides of the fish a little as well as the parts in contact with the pan. Heat the oil on a low to medium flame, then add the fish, one piece at a time. Adding it all together would risk lowering the temperature of the oil too much, especially if the fish is cold. Fry the fish until browned, for about two minutes on each side. When cooked, the flakes should gently come apart with a fork, but the flesh should still look slightly transparent.

Serve as soon as the fish is cooked, with the rice and warm chutney. Delicious.

Lightly curried halibut with fresh tomato chutney
Interesting fact
Q: Why can't a halibut see you if you approach it from its left-hand side?
A: Because it's dead and in a bag in your fridge.

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