Although I prefer vegetarian, I'll happily eat small amounts of meat at times, particularly fish and seafood; the curry below is one where the fish takes a back seat in the dish but interesting textures and flavours shine through. I really wanted to create something using curry leaves, which I've used before, in a tamarind and prune chutney I developed (puliyini); I thought it would be interesting to use them more now that they're available fresh and cheaply from Indian food stockists. Not to be confused with the spice, or the herb of the same name of course.
Because curry leaves have quite a soft texture they don't have to be discarded from the dish when cooked - apparently they're good for digestion as well as a few other ailments, and the texture isn't at all unpleasant (see note below for more information).
Kumara with Fish, Coconut & Curry Leaves
The star of this dish is the kumara (sweet potato) and the curry leaves, not the relatively small quantity of fish. It does add to the balance of the dish however, without taking over.
Serves 4, or 6 if served with other curries.
*Curry leaves don’t taste anything like the spice of the same name; in fact they are from a tree belonging to the citrus family and have a mildly citrus, nutty flavour when fried in oil. There is no need to discard them when cooked as they contain medicinal properties and are not at all unpleasant in texture. As you would expect, fresh leaves are much more flavourful than dried.
500g red kumara
¾ cup loosely packed curry leaves*
¼ cup oil
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
½ - ¾ tsp chilli powder
or 1 x 5cm long red chilli, seeded and chopped finely
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp garum masala
1 ½ cups vegetable, fish or chicken stock (or water)
¼ cup tamarind paste
1 x 400g tin coconut cream
1 ½ tsp salt or to taste, & coarsely ground black pepper
1 red capsicum, seeded and diced
1 firm but ripe banana, peeled and diced 2cm
200 - 300g firm white fish fillet, diced 3cm
fresh coriander for garnish
Peel the kumara, cut into 2cm dice, and set aside. Strip the curry leaves from their stalks and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frypan over medium-high heat, and stir in the mustard seeds. Cook until the seeds start to ‘pop’, then reduce heat immediately and stir in the curry leaves, cumin seeds, ginger, chilli powder or chilli, turmeric and garum masala.
Stir in the diced kumara then the water, and cook for five minutes, stirring. Stir in the tamarind paste, coconut cream, salt, pepper and prepared red capsicum and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Stir in the banana and simmer another 15 minutes or until the kumara is tender but not mushy.
Stir in the prepared fish and cook through, three – four minutes.
Serve the curry with plain or brown steamed rice, chutneys, plain yoghurt, and warm chapatis if wished. Garnish with finely chopped coriander.