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Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Spicy Fish Keema

I spent half of my childhood in a Southern Indian city called Hyderabad. What I love the most about this city is its food. Hyderabadi cuisine is spicy, complex, and flavourful, with a fascinating history. (I’ve already touched upon some of this, including the story of the origins of Hyderabadi food and its evolution (involving the Mughals and the Nizams) in a previous post.) On top of all this, several Hyderabadi dishes play an important role in my own personal history. For instance, I have memories of delicious Biryani lunches with my father at Nizam Club, during which we would have long chats about communism, god, black holes, and the senselessness of vegetarian Biryani (I maintained, and continue to maintain, that Biryani must be made with mutton, or, in an emergency, with chicken; my father, is more flexible in principle, but frankly, seems to agree with me in practice), amongst other things.

Another dish that I love and associate fond memories with is Kheema. Kheema is spicy minced meat, and it’s made in different parts of India in slightly different ways. Kheema reminds me of Hussein, an elderly, gentle, kind, funny, patient man, who was our chauffeur. I used to be driven to and from school by Hussein, whom I was really very fond of. As it turned out, Hussein’s wife made the most delicious kheema, and every time she made some, he would bring me left-overs the next morning, which I would eat for lunch in school. This was a special treat as my parents’ was a vegetarian household, and no meat was ever cooked or served in it. 

Of and on, over the past decade, I’ve craved kheema made just like that. But, I no longer eat meat, and in any case, I have no idea how to make kheema that tastes like Hussein’s wife’s recipe. Today, I decided that I was going to make some kheema, one way or another; I was gripped by a craving so powerful, that I set about crafting a recipe with a kind of single-minded determination that I only wish I could summon when I sit down to write a chapter of my thesis. Although I don’t eat meat, I do eat fish, so awful as this is likely to sound to a Hyderabadi, I decided to make fish kheema. Using a recipe for “Bhuna Kheema” and adapting it quite a bit (for instance, I used tomatoes, which isn’t common in Hyderabadi recipes, and of course, I was using fish instead of mutton/chicken), I arrived at this creation:

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It was delicious, even if it wasn’t quite authentic, and it still had a distinct flavour profile that resembled the kheema from my child hood! If you’d like to try it, here’s what you will need:

1 pound fish fillets (any white fish should do, used haddock)

2-3 tablespoons oil (the more you use, the better the kheema will taste, up to a point of course)

1/2 stick cinnamon

2 bay leaves

A handful of curry leaves

4 cardamom pods

3-4 cloves

1 large red onion, (dice 3 quarters and slice the remaining quarter)

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 teaspoon grated ginger

10 sprigs of coriander, chopped

5-8 mint leaves

6 green chillies, chopped

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 teaspoons red chilli powder (I used 1 teaspoon Kashmiri mirch powder and 1 teaspoon extra hot red chilli powder that I bought at an Indian store)

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon garam masala powder

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Method:

Boil the fish in a pot of water with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cool the fish and chop it into bite sized pieces.

Heat oil in a pan and fry the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, curry leaves, and cloves. Once the spices become fragrant, add the onion and fry until golden brown. Now, add the grated ginger and crushed garlic, and fry for a few minutes.

Next, add the chopped chillies, followed by the mint, coriander, salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder and garam a masala. Fry for a bit, and then add the chopped tomatoes. Fry some more.

Finally, add the boiled fish with a little bit of water, and toss. Using a flat ladle, break up the fish into little pieces, whilst stirring everything on medium to high heat. Continue periodically stirring the mixture until the water dries up, and the fish begins to look like mince meat. At this point, take the fish off the heat, squeeze some lime juice on it, stir it, and serve it with some coriander and/or mint leaves garnished on top. You can eat kheema with naan, roti, chapati, parathas, or just by itself. I ate it with chapatis and dahi (Indian-style Yoghurt), and made a cup of lemon tea to wash it all down.

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Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Easy Fish Tikka Recipe Served with Mint Chutney

Tikka is one of my favourite appetizers, but unfortunately, good tikka is surprisingly difficult to come by outside India. Craving decent tikka (especially fish tikka), I have tried multiple recipes over the years, and finally, I think I’ve found the perfect combination and balance of ingredients. This recipe, arrived at after some fine-tuning and re-mixing, and much experimentation 😉 is also relatively easy to follow.

Mmmm just look at how delicious this looks:

Tandoori tikka recipe

If you’d like to try it out, here is the recipe!

Ingredients:

1 pound fish cut into 1.5 inch cubes (I’ve found that haddock works really well for tikka)

For the Marinade:

6-8 large cloves of garlic

1/2 tablespoon grated ginger

1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves

3 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp grated lime zest

1 tbsp kashmiri red chili powder

1 tsp freshly ground cumin powder

1/2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp salt

1 tsp rock salt

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp mustard oil

1 tbsp gram flour

1/2 cup yoghurt

Method:

Set aside the gram flour, yoghurt and half the oil. Put the rest of the marinade ingredients in a blender, or food processor, and process into a smooth paste.

In the meantime, fry the gram flour in the oil that was set aside, until the flour darkens a bit and becomes fragrant (this should take about one, or one and half minutes).

Combine the fried flour, spice paste, and yoghurt in a bowl, then add the fish pieces to this. Marinate the fish in the mixture for at least 4 hours, or even overnight (place the fish and marinade in the refrigerator during this time).

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When you’re ready to serve the tikka, broil the fish in the oven (at the highest setting for about 15 minutes, basting half way through with butter), or, if you can, grill it over a barbecue. I think it tastes best when it’s grilled on the barbecue, but broiling works well enough, at a pinch.

Serve the tikka with mint chutney (to make chutney at home, blitz a cup of coriander leaves with half a cup of mint leaves, 2-3 green chillies, 2 tbsp of lime juice, 3-4 tbsp of greek yoghurt, and rock salt to taste. Add more yoghurt if you want a thicker consistency, or if the chutney tastes too hot for your liking). You can also garnish the plate or tray you serve the tikka on with onions sliced into rings, or green chilies.

And there you have it, a delicious appetizer, that I sometimes eat with roti or rice as a main course. It also makes for a great snack at cocktail parties.

Fish tikka