Lifestyle

LOTI COOKS | FISH IN A SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE WITH FAROKH TALATI

Farokh Talati, the head chef at St John Bread and Wine, is celebrating his Parsi heritage with his debut cookbook Parsi: From Persia to Bombay. The Parsi people, descended from Persian Zoroastrians, emigrated to India to avoid religious persecution, mainly settling in and around Mumbai, and with Parsi, Farokh is showcasing that blend of Persian and Indian flavours, including this fish in a sweet and sour sauce.

As Farokh explains, “This dish is traditionally served at weddings to symbolise good luck and prosperity. The fish is gently cooked in sauce that is a beautiful balance between sweet and sour. Flat fish are best, as they are easier to cook in the thin layer of sauce. However, that’s not to say that a well-filleted piece of hake, pollock or haddock would not suit. Even a skate wing would be a great twist to this classic dish.”

Ingredients

2 tablespoons ghee or butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar
1 small green chilli, thinly sliced
6 fresh curry leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon rice flour (or chickpea flour or cornflour)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, plus extra to taste
1 teaspoon caster sugar, plus extra to taste
1 teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 whole flat fish on the bone, such as plaice, lemon sole or Dover sole (about 300g)
5 cherry tomatoes, halved

Method

1. Heat the ghee or butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the onion and garlic and fry for 6 minutes, or until the onion turns soft and translucent. Add the cumin, chilli and curry leaves and stir for 2 minutes to release the flavours.

2. Stir the flour into the pan to form a paste, then, bit by bit, add 500ml of water, stirring it into the paste to create a smooth sauce as you go. Do not be tempted to add too much water in one go, as this will create a lumpy sauce – an egg cup at a time is a good reference.

3. Crack the egg into a bowl and beat it together with the vinegar, sugar, salt and turmeric. Lower the heat under the frying pan and add the egg mixture, stirring it in thoroughly.

4. Place the fish in a pan. As the sauce gently simmers around the fish, it will thicken and turn glossy. Cook the fish for 5 minutes on each side, regularly basting the sauce over the top to help the fish cook evenly, until cooked through.

5. As Parsi food is a balance between sweet, sour and salty, you must constantly taste your food to correct any imbalance. Have a taste of your sauce now and adjust it with a sprinkle of sugar, a dash of vinegar and/or a pinch of salt, as necessary, to bring harmony to the dish.

6. Once the fish is cooked through and you are happy with your sauce, place the fish on a large platter and smother it with the sauce. Arrange the cherry tomatoes around the platter and serve, preferably with steaming hot rice and kachuber salad.

Parsi: From Persia to Bombay, Recipes & Tales From The Ancient Culture by Farokh Talati (Bloomsbury Absolute, £26) is out now. Photography by Sam A.Harris.

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