Curry has been known in Great Britain since the mid-eighteenth century (see page 105), not just through Indian restaurants opened by immigrants—the first of which appeared in 1759, in London—but as prepared by chefs at non-Indian establishments, and even by home cooks. Thackeray has one fed to an unsuspecting Becky Sharp by the Sedleys, for instance, in Vanity Fair, his 1847-vintage satire on British society (see page 103). Queen Victoria was introduced to curry by her Indian secretary, Abdul Karim, who also taught her Urdu; according to Heston Blumenthal, she ate curry every day for the last thirteen years of her life. Curries prepared in the U.K. by chefs who are not themselves South Asian tend to employ that ubiquitous seasoning known as curry powder. In his own curries, like this one from Hix Oyster and Fish House in Lyme Regis, chef Mark Hix prefers individual spices instead. “I like to use firm fish for this,” he says, “like monkfish, huss [a kind of small shark or dogfish, sometimes called rock salmon, popularly used for fish and chips], or ling.”
Recipe courtesy of cookbook The British Table: A New Look at the Traditional Cooking of England, Scotland, and Wales by Colman Andrews. Click here to purchase your own copy.
- 3 1/2 Pounds monkfish, cut into thick cubes about 11/4 inches (3 cm) square
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 Cup clarified butter or vegetable oil
- 3 medium onions, coarsely chopped
- 5 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 Teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 Teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 Teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 Teaspoon ground turmeric
- pinch of saffron threads
- pinch of ground curry leaf
- 1/2 Teaspoon paprika
- 1 Teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 Teaspoon mustard seeds
- 2 Teaspoons tomato puree
- juice of ½ lemon
- 5 Cups court bouillon or fish stock, store-bought or homemade
- leaves from 4 or 5 sprigs cilantro, chopped
- cooked basmati rice, for serving
Season the fish generously with salt and pepper.
Heat half the clarified butter in a Dutch oven or a large skillet with a lid over high heat. Fry the fish cubes, working in batches if necessary, turning them frequently with tongs until they are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
Remove the fish from the Dutch oven with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Add the remaining clarified butter to the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and add the onions, garlic, ginger, and jalapeños. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, ground cumin, turmeric, saffron, curry leaf, paprika, fennel seeds, and mustard seeds, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more.
Add the tomato puree, lemon juice, and court bouillon and bring to a boil over high heat. Season with salt and pepper, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.
Carefully transfer 1 cup of the sauce to a blender or food processor, puree it, then stir it back into the rest of the sauce. Add the fish to the sauce and simmer for 15 minutes, then stir in the cilantro and simmer for 5 minutes more. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve with basmati rice.