Today was my little guy’s first day back at school. Now a first grader, he ran in without looking back, gosh how different did this scene compare to last year when the doe-eyed kindergartner clung to me. The morning couldn’t have been more perfect. The sky was a little grey with a few droplets of rain and the promise of a new season was on its way. It was clear in both our minds that summer fun and frolic was over as was the anarchy that comes with it. No more negotiation on staying-up for ‘one more hour’, the 15 minute I-Pad rule would be reinstated and no more late evening strolls to the ice cream parlor. It was time to center ourselves again and reconnect with routine.
To set the tone, meal times have always been an important place to start. Preparing something of a less whimsical and spontaneous nature, but rather, a dish cooked with all purpose and intention. A dish that fills the home with aromas and the soul with gratification. It felt too soon for anything braised, oh no, I would save that for the winter, but a dish with some kind of sauce is what would be needed, a dish whose appeal could also be valued through the nose as the eyes are closed.
I decided on making a cod coated in an aromatic coconut sauce and served it with rice. Oh how his eyes lit up with the whiff of steamed rice and savory coconut sauce with lemony notes.
- 2lb fish, cut into 4 pieces
- ¾ tbsp. of coriander powder
- Salt and pepper
- Cooking oil
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 Lime Juice
- 1 tbsp. ginger
- Curry leaves
- 1 tsp. Mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp. cumin seeds
- 1” stick of lemon grass
- A few sprigs of cilantro
- Rice – 2 cups, cooked according to instructions
Making the sauce
1) Heat the oil in a pan, add the cumin and mustard seeds, as the cumin deepens in color and the mustard seeds begin to bounce off the pan, add the curry leaves for a minute until they curl up around the edges and crispen. Add the ginger, salt and pepper and cook until the ginger becomes golden
2) Add the coconut milk and lemon grass and allow to reduce until it coats the back of a spoon (it will reduce to about half)
3) Check the seasoning and squeeze in the lime juice
1) In a plate, combine the coriander powder, salt and pepper
2) Rub the mixture on one side of the fish
3) Heat a pan with 1 tbsp. oil and add the fish, with seasoned side faced down first. Cook for a couple of minutes (to get a nice crust) and then flip to cook the other side. Check that it is cooked by inserting a knife in to the thickest part. If the knife is hot, remove from heat
4) Spoon the sauce over each fillet of fish and serve with hot rice
5) Splash a few droplets of lime over each dish for added zing, top with cilantro
Saira Malhotra, is of British –Indian descent and is a chef, food writer and cooking instructor based in New York City. Raised in Hounslow, U.K, or rather ‘Little India’, where the air is aromatic with roasted spices, little did Saira know these moments would follow her from being a student in France and Italy to residing in NYC with her husband and kids and parlay themselves unexpectedly in to a culinary career. She is a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York City. Come visit her at her food blog: Passport Pantry where she shares approachable and international recipes.