Monday, 1 July 2013

Meen Pollichathu (fish wrapped in banana leaf)

I have made no secret of my love for Indian food, it's an obsession that is ever growing. Indian food in England is not a true representation of the real food that is available in India itself, the variety of food available due to seasonal diversity throughout the country is staggering. One of the most amazing places that I have ever been to and will always have a place in my heart is Varkala in Kerala, a cliff top hippy hide away, populated by keralans, tiebtans and of course back packers. It's a hard life watching the sun rise in a stunning location, yoga in the mornings, ayurverdic massage for lunch followed by a dip in the stunning coconut fringed sea but hey someone has to do it. The absolute highlight of my day, and the highlight of my trip in India was always when night fell, the fishermen would bring in their daily catch and it would be displayed on a table in front of each restaurant, you have to get there early for the best and freshest fish. One particular dish that I found myself eating repeatedly was Meen Pollichathu, which is a spiced fish wrapped in a banana leaf, when the fish cooks the juices and the spices combine to make a delicious sauce inside the parcel. I suspect that when I had this dish, it was usually made with shark, tilapia or tuna but I think it can work with most fish, especially white fish. Insanely easy to make with maximum flavour results.

You will need (for the fish marinade):

500g of haddock fillet
1 tsp of turmeric powder
1/2 tsp of indian pepper powder (trust me it's totally different)
4 tsp of garlic and ginger paste
1 tbsp of lemon juice
2 tsp of maldon sea salt
2 tsp of kashmiri chilli powder

Firstly place the sea salt into a pestle and mortar with the garlic and ginger and pound until it is a paste. Add the lemon juice and spices and then spread this all over the fish, allow this to marinate for at least an hour.

Mean while make the curry sauce.

You will need:
150g of chopped indian onions (or use shallots)
2 tsp of grated ginger
3 chopped green chillies
15 curry leaves
1/2 tsp of turmeric
1 cup of thick coconut milk
1 tsp of maldon sea salt
2 tbsp of coconut oil
3 tsp of jaggery (indian sugar)

Firstly fry the onions in the coconut oil until the onions start to turn golden brown, add the curry leaves, chilli powder and turmeric, fry this for a further five minutes, then add the ginger and chillies, fry for five more minutes, then add the coconut milk, salt and sugar, cook the sauce until it starts to split, this is when then oil returns to the dish and is usually an indicator in Indian cooking that it is done, this should only take 5 to ten minutes on a high heat. 
 Mean while take two large banana leaves and soften them over the gas flame until they turn a vivid green and become soft to handle, this way they will not break when you wrap the fish.

In a frying pan fry the fish on either side for a couple of minutes in coconut oil, it does not need to be cooked through. Place one banana leaf horizontally and place another on top vertically so that it looks like a cross, place half of the curry sauce in the centre of the banana leaf cross and then add the fish on top of the sauce and then the remaining half of the sauce on top of the fish, wrap the fish up in the leaves and then secure the parcel with cocktail sticks. 

Cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 180 degrees c.
Heavenly with fluffy pilau rice and an indian salad.

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