It’s very rare that I find the need to have an “occasion” in order to prepare something special. After all, how can we possibly show our love for others if we don’t find time to love ourselves? I decided to take a dish perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon and make at a whim on a stress-free Thursday night. Easy midweek gratification for an overworked college student.
I’d say that this curry only requires about 30 minutes to make, provided that you have all your mis en place in order. I chose to puree my onions, ginger, and garlic in the food processor, both to save time and to create a smooth base that would serve as the aromatic beginnings to this curry, enriched with dressings of coriander, turmeric, and a little curry powder for good measure. Do prep your salmon before you start. Cut it into chunks and let it marinate for a bit in turmeric, paprika, and salt. Revered cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey (whose daughter, Sakina, is excellent on House of Cards) says that turmeric helps to draw the fishiness out of fish and believe me it does, along with adding a wonderful smokiness to it all.
I added some potato into the mix, mostly to add some bulk because the salmon I was working with was particularly ratty. I guess that’s what happens when you buy your fish at a discount grocery store. However, a good piece of salmon can easily hold its own in this dish, so just add a little more if you want to omit the potato. Either way, this recipe will transport you to a balmy beachfront, where life is easy and the food is excellent.
For the Salmon
- 3/4 pound salmon filet, cut into chunks
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or hot paprika
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 medium onion, coarsely pureed
- 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and pureed
- 2 cloves of garlic, pureed
- 1/2 of a Serrano, jalapeno, or Thai chili pepper
- 1/4 cup diced tomatoes
- 2 small-medium red potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or hot paprika
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk, adjust to your liking
- 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- salt to taste
Begin by prepping the salmon. Remove the skin, if any, and cut into 1-2 inch chunks. Place the salmon pieces in a bowl and toss with the turmeric, cayenne/paprika, and salt. Allow the salmon to sit and marinate while you prepare the curry.
To make the curry, start by throwing the onion, ginger, garlic, and chili pepper into the food processor. Process until smooth but not completely liquefied (a little coarseness is fine).
Heat some oil (about 2-3 tablespoons) in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Once hot, add the mustard seeds (if using) and allow them sputter and crackle in the oil for a minute or two, being careful not to burn them. Then add the onion/ginger/garlic mixture and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the turmeric, ground coriander, cayenne/paprika, and curry powder, cooking out the spices for about a minute. Add the tomatoes and some water to loosen any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan and cook out this wet masala until an oily sheen begins to appear along the edges, about 5 minutes. At this point, add the potatoes and enough water to cover them (about a 1/2 cup or so) and the coconut milk. Bring this mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and knife tender. If the water has reduced substantially, add some more to regenerate a sauce. Add the salmon pieces and cook for another five minutes, till the fish is completely cooked through. Adjust to taste with salt and more coconut milk if needed. The essence is that you want the coconut flavor to be there, but you don’t want the curry to be overtly creamy. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve your salmon curry warm over steamed basmati rice.
- If you don’t have black mustard seeds on hand, that’s okay. I like the slight bitterness they add. Also, I feel that the combination of mustard seeds and coconut milk gives this curry a distinct South Indian note. However, the overall flavor of your curry won’t suffer if you omit them.
- This curry could also work well with a firm-fleshed white fish, such as cod, or comparable pink-fleshed fishes such as Arctic char or trout.