Thursday, September 4, 2008

5 star fish masala/marinade

For you fish lovers out there, try this version of spicy fish masala.For those of you wondering about the word 'masala', it is a mixture of spices; in this case used as a marinade.
I have started making it and freezing it so it is on hand when I need it.
Mercury poisoning makes it difficult to eat just any fish these days but catfish, salmon, herring, sardines and tuna among others are considered safe.
The other fish are okay too as long as they aren't eaten too frequently i.e. not more than once in 7-10 days.
For more about which fish to eat and which to avoid, visit the USFDA site: Mercury in Fish: Cause for Concern?

Anyway here's a recipe that my favorite aunty gave me when I was about to leave India. Her family lived by the sea and fish was served in various dishes every day. Nobody made fish like she did. I have used this recipe often and cherish her generosity in sharing it with me.
Now it's time to pass it on. As I said before I make a large amount and store some so it's hard to tell how much masala is required for how much fish. It's the old eyeball thing again and I feel my age when I just look at the fish and know how much masala to make.
Try this amount and store the unused portion in a baggie in the freezer for future use.

1 medium onion (USA)
1 teaspoon rai (mustard seed).
2 tsp jeera (whole cumin)
1 teaspoon whole black pepper
1/4 tsp methi seeds (whole fenugreek)
1 medium sized pod garlic (In the US this is big too).
2 Tbsp oil (I use olive oil)

Peel the garlic cloves using above tip.
Peel and slice or chop the onion into one inch cubes.
Heat oil, add rai, when it splutters (cover pan if you're not used to rai and listen for the sound of it spluttering).
Reduce heat and add jeera, pepper, methi seeds.
When jeera becomes light brown (happens quickly), add onion and garlic.
Fry till light brown.

Remove and cool.
Add tamarind paste and blend till smooth. Store in freezer.
I add salt as and when I take out the amount I'm going to use each time.
I apply the masala and allow cleaned fish to marinate for a few hours (in the refrigerator).
Sometimes I get a batch of fish, apply the masala and freeze immediately in baggies.
Then i take out one at a time broil and eat.
Other times I just broil a big batch, then freeze in baggies and take out a piece as needed, heat and eat.
Either way works great.

Oven fried fish.

I prefer to oven fry my fish these days.
To do this set oven on Broil.
Line a pan with two sheets of foil (saves on scrubbing later).
Spray with cooking spray, place marinated fish, broil till done (depends on thickness, type of fish but check every three minutes if unsure). When broiled dark brown (like pan fried fish), turn and apply a little more masala if needed, spray other side and broil. If you get the color right, no one can tell it's oven fried.

Doneness test: If you're trying this for the first time, knife should go in smoothly. When cut there should be no pink areas in an Indian fried fish dish. If there are, slice into fish and turn pink slices face up and return to broiler for a couple of minutes.
If you like your fish spicy, sprinkle chilli powder on both sides before broiling.
This way of frying the fish eliminates the odor of fish in the house.

Varieties of fish for frying: salmon, pomfret (pompano), halibut.

For fish curry:

Take two level Tbsps of this masala, add to one can whole peeled tomatoes. Blend.
In a pan, heat one tsp oil, season 1/2 tsp rai. When rai splutters add 4 red chillies and one sprig curry leaves.
After a minute, add masala, tomato mix and let it come to the boil.
Let it boil for three to five minutes.
Add washed and well-drained fish or shrimp to this mixture, salt to taste and cook.
I add a little extra chilli powder at this stage. If you're trying this for the first time, remember fish cooks quickly.

Varieties of fish for curries: catfish, a salmon fillet cut up into two inch cubes, sliced whole halibut, sliced whole pomfret, shrimp. I usually ask for the whole pomfret to be cleaned and cut into half inch slices.

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