This recipe is deliciously rich with flavour, spice and the perfect balance of sweet and sourness from the tamarind and fresh lime. Any strong white fish can be used here to combat the flavours, pan fried first to give a crispy skin and then finished off in the sauce. However, it can easily be made as a base for veggies or beefed up with grains and pulses as a warming stew, perfect for Autumn.
100g tamarind paste or pulp from a dried block
3 tbsp groundnut oil
2 fennel bulbs, stalks removed and finely sliced
12 curry leaves
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ground coriander
6 garlic cloves
3 red chillies
5cm fresh ginger, skin removed
2 tbsp groundnut oil
250g large tomatoes
250g cherry vine tomatoes
2 tsp caster sugar
Thai basil leaves
Fresh mint leaves
2 spring onions, finely sliced lengthways
½ tbsp fish sauce
½ tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 limes, juiced
1 tbsp palm sugar
25g pistachios, toasted roughly chopped
1. Soak the tamarind block in 1l of hot water for 20 minutes to break up the block, working with your fingers to separate the stones and fibres.
2. Strain the liquid pushing through as much of the pulp as possible. You can use tamarind paste if dried blocks are not available.
3. Meanwhile, heat the groundnut oil in a pan and cook the curry leaves and onions until soft, gold and transluscent. Add the dried spices and toast for 1 minutes until fragrant.
4. Make the paste by adding the garlic, chilli, ginger to a food processor and blitzing to a smooth paste.
5. Add the paste to the softened fennel, turn the heat up and fry all together, stirring for 2 minutes to cook through.
6. Roughly chop the larger tomatoes, or pulse them briefly in a food processor. Add to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, allowing most of the juices to evaporate.
7. Stir through the sugar and tamarind pulp or paste, with a pinch of salt and simmer for 8 minutes on a medium heat. Add a little water if it seems too dry.
8. Heat a separate pan with sunflower oil until hot and add the tomatoes, tossing until blistered and charred all over for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
9. Pat dry the fish fillets and season all over with salt. Heat a frying pan to a medium-high heat and fry the fish skin side down until golden and crispy.
10. Transfer the fish directly to the sauce, skin side facing up, to finish cooking through for 4 minutes in the sauce over a medium heat.
11. Transfer to shallow bowls to serve with the fish skin side up.
12. Pick a handleful of leaves from the fresh herbs and mix together in a bowl with the spring onion. Whisk the lime juice and dressing ingredients and mix with the herbs.
13. Place a spoonful of herbs over each fish and scatter over the toasted pistachios to serve.