I was never what you’d call a talented cook, but since having Alfie my repertoire has dwindled to consist of approximately five dishes, Uber Eats, and calling my mother-in-law for an emergency delivery. So when I got the opportunity to land (ahem, that’s a fishing pun) 2kg of barramundi fillets from Humpty Doo Barramundi, I was excited but slightly nervous to try a fish curry. After all, 2kg is a lot of fish, and when you’re gifted that much fresh, sustainably-farmed seafood, you want to do it justice.
Barramundi isn’t my usual go-to in the land of fish (I’ve always been a salmon gal) so I had to do a little research. Did you know that Australian-farmed barramundi is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (anti-inflammatory), phosphorus (protects the blood’s acid balance and transports energy) and selenium (an anti-oxidant, for thyroid health and immune system)? Well you do now. Plus, as it turns out, it’s delicious AND really easy to cook with. From pan frying and oven-baking to fish cakes, fish pie and fish curry, the options are pretty well endless.
Paralysed by indecision, I called my afore-mentioned mother-in-law for help. Maddy is an excellent cook (and even more amazing MIL and support to us), and she offered to cook a Bengali-style light fish curry for us. It was A M A Z I N G, and even I can cook it, so I’m sharing the recipe with you. It takes a little prep work, but it’s worth the effort.
Maddy’s (non-Bengali) version of ‘macher jhol’ – a Bengali-style light fish curry
300g oily fish fillets cut into 2” pieces (I’ve used barramundi, but you could also use red snapper, salmon, pomfret, sea bass, tilapia…)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into narrow wedges
Mustard oil – 2T for frying, 1t for the five spice tempering and 1/2t to drizzle before serving
Sliced green chillis (to taste)
1T chopped fresh coriander
1T mustard and coconut paste*
1/2t panch phoron**
Salt to taste
*Mustard and coconut paste
20g mustard seeds soaked in 200ml water for 2 hours
1 green chilli (optional)
20g moist coconut flakes
Grind together to form a fine paste and freeze excess for later use.
**Panch phoron (Bengali five spice tempering)
1T fennel seeds
1T mustard seeds
1T cumin seeds
1T fenugreek seeds
1T nigella seeds
Mix and store excess in a jar for later use.
- Coat the fish fillets with 1/4t turmeric and a pinch of salt and set aside.
- Coat the potato wedges with 1/4t turmeric and a pinch of salt and set aside.
- Heat 2T of mustard oil in a wok till it begins to smoke lightly. Add the potatoes and ‘fry’ until light brown. Set aside.
- Add the fish pieces to wok on medium-high heat and delicately sear – approximately one minute each side. Set aside.
- Add 1t mustard oil to the wok on medium heat and wait until it begins to smoke lightly. Add the sliced chilli (if using) and panch phoran tempering. Stir and then immediately add the mustard and coconut paste plus 2T of water (to prevent the tempering from burning). Stir continuously.
- Once simmering, add the fish and potatoes, cover with water and stir gently to combine. Simmer covered for approximately 5mins or till fish and potatoes are cooked.
- Season to taste.
- Drizzle 1/2t raw mustard oil in a serving bowl and top with fish curry. Sprinkle with chopped fresh coriander. Enjoy with hot rice.
What is tempering?
Tempering is a method widely used in Indian cuisine, where whole or ground spices are heated in hot oil or ghee and then added to a dish. This process extracts and retains the essence, aroma and flavour of the spices, adding a whole new dimension to a dish.
I was lucky enough to be gifted 2kg of beautiful barramundi from Humpty Doo Barramundi. Humpty Doo is a privately owned and operated family business set halfway between Darwin and Kakadu National Park, surrounded by lush mangroves and virgin tropical savannah. For them, sustainability is more than an operating practice; it’s an ethos that runs through the DNA of the business. Humpty Doo Barramundi maintains a holistic approach to sustainability, considering the health of the environment, the barramundi and the consumer, and I feel like you can taste that in the fish itself.
Many consumers don’t realise that 60% of Barramundi consumed in Australia is imported. Without labelling in restaurants, many assume that if it’s Barramundi, it’s Australian. I’d urge you to ask the question, read the labelling, and support Australian businesses like Humpty Doo Barramundi.