When the day finds you pushing a rock uphill, Sisyphus-like, motivation has dropped to a low ebb and one is markedly hungry, simplicity alongside familiarity can sometimes be the culinary saviour in the kitchen. Such is this dish, that once made, will automatically come to the rescue more times than you might imagine. And when it comes to supper, we all need rescuing sometimes.

In the interests of clarity, India is a sub-continent about the same size as Western Europe although it manages to accomodate three times the number of inhabitants. It utilises several distinctly different languages and more religions than you can shake your Ganesha at. It is, to say the least, an oversight to generalise about its peoples, its faiths or its cuisine. So when trying to come to terms with the food of this sub-continent, one has to allow for dramatic variation in climate, topography, availability, traditions, customs and beliefs. With a coastline measuring over 7,500 kilometres, coastal communities nurture their own contrasting fish recipes. When faced with unimaginable diversity; some chefs do simplistic, others do simple. One of the first Indian born chefs to gain a Michelin star in the UK, Atul Kochhar rubs along thoughtfully in the latter category.

His recipe for Simple Fish Curry is just that; a sauce built of simple spices with the fish cooked separately under a grill. And any firm white fish can be used. Simple.

A Simple Fish Curry from Fish, Indian Style (2008) Atul Kochhar

Serves 4
4 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, sliced
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp red chilli powder
200 ml fish stock
2 small tomatoes, thickly sliced
½ tbsp. lemon juice
4 pieces farmed cod fillet weighing about 125g each (pollack, whiting or pouting can also be used)
A pinch of garam masala
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat half the oil in a saucepan, add the cumin seeds and sauté over a medium heat until they start to pop
Add the onion and sauté until translucent
Stir in the turmeric coriander and chilli powder
Sauté for 1 minute, pour in the stock and bring to a simmer
Add the tomato slices and lemon juice and cook over a low heat for 3-5 minutes, until the tomatoes have softened
Adjust the seasoning if necessary
Brush the fish with the remaining oil and season with salt and pepper
Cook, skin side up, under a hot grill for 4-5 minutes, until the skin is crisp, then turn and cook the other side for 3-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish
Put the fish on 4 serving plates and pour the sauce over
Sprinkle with garam masala and coriander and serve with boiled rice

Wine thoughts

I once found unexpected success, along with my simple fish curry, by quaffing back some well-chilled Riesling. More unusually it was a Riesling from Australia, Clare valley to be precise. More body than its many famous counterparts in Germany and with a little more alcohol, although still only 12° or 13°, it worked a treat with the fish and the curry spices. Crisp and pungent, with strong lime and preserved lemon flavours finishing with that slightly oily feel that wine enthusiasts love, but non-wine drinkers believe is more like visiting a garage than a wine merchant. Their loss I’m afraid.