Kerala is India’s coastal state – that boasts of fantastic seafood cooked in coconut oil and packed with spices.
Fish is a must in most Kerala homes. Fresh fish is cooked in pantry staples such as coconut oil, spices in an earthern pot or wrapped in banana leaves and baked. This is a recipe from Kuttanad – that’s where our parents are from…the backwaters of Kerala’s Alleppey District.
Wash, cut and clean the 8 large large fish (Pearl spot – Karimeen – or Pomfret would be the best choice) using fresh lemon juice and salt. Pat dry.
Toss the fish pieces in 1 tsp crushed black pepper, ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp turmeric powder.
Shallow fry the fish in 3 tbs coconut oil. Remove the fish pieces from the pan and drain on kitchen towels.
To the same pan add 2 tbs oil and ½ tsp black mustard seeds. When they splutter, add 10 shallots chopped finely, 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves and 2 slit large green chillies.
Add 6 garlic pods chopped finely and 1 inch piece ginger chopped finely.
Mix these ingredients to make a paste with a little water: ½ tsp powdered fennel seeds, ½ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp crushed black pepper, 1 tsp red chilli powder, 1 tsp paprika or Kashmiri chilli powder and 2 tsp coriander powder. Add this paste to the pan and sauté well. Add 1 large tomato, chopped and sauté until the oil runs clear.
Add 3 large cocum (kudam puli) to the pan. Add another sprig of fresh curry leaves.
Wrap each of the fish pieces along with a spoon of masala – in banana leaves cut into rectangles. Make sure each fish is thoroughly coated with the masala.
Insert a toothpick at both ends to hold the leaves in place. Baste the leaves with some oil and bake in an oven, cook on a pan or steam in a cooker.
Serve with rice.
(For a richer flavour, add some fresh coconut milk to the masala mixture)
By Linda Joseph Kavalackal,
Christ & Co.