"This is a journey of my life since I was all of 12 yrs when I started my hand in cooking to now with displays of my learning and creations of recipes from around the world. My inspiration and role model has always been my Mum who has always created dishes from around the world and excellently well. I do not believe I would ever match to her culinary skills. I remember the times she could cook and bake almost 4-5 dishes in one go without ever letting one go under cooked or burnt! I was born and raised in Dubai, UAE and recently moved to India for family reasons. Kitchenette just means that over the decades, my kitchen has changed from that of my mum's to my uncle and aunt's, to my home in UAE and now in India. Pala't'te, describes both global cuisines ('Palatte'-diverse flavours) and pleasing diverse 'Palates'."

Friday, 8 June 2012

Nadan Ayla Curry (Traditional Keralite Mackerel Gravy)

I wanted to make a complimentary French dish to go with my Frenched French Beans out of Mackerel but I guess that will have to wait for the weekend as I need a few ingredients from the Mart.

This recipe is from my dearest Mum. I only tried my hand in making fish curry or any of our traditional Keralite dishes after coming to India and staying with HD Anup:) as he enjoys our traditional cuisine.

I am dedicating this post to my bro (not by birth but all the same my bro) Benu Kurian who has been asking me for this recipe since a while now.

Fish Curry Ready!

You need:

Small Onions or Shallots

  • 4-6 shallots or small onions *in case you do not have these shallots, use regular red onions medium sized 2 or 1 large red onion (diced finely)
  • Half a pod of garlic or 6-8 cloves skinned and chopped
  • 1" ginger finely sliced
  • 1 lemon sized tamarind 
  • 3-4 green chilies slit lengthwise
  • 1-2 tbsp of (Kashmiri) Chili Powder. * in case you are using a spicier Chili Powder version, adjust to your taste. I normally add up to 3 tbsp of Kashmiri Chili powder.
  • 2 tsps of turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder *optional - in case you are keeping this dish over a day I recommend not to add it unless you plan on refrigerating your fish curry. In either case, pls. leave the fish out for half the day (i.e. if you are cooking it in the afternoon, let it stay out of the fridge till late evening at least to absorb the spices well)
  • 1 kilo ayla (Mackerel) - clean and trimmed - cut into small or medium pieces
  • 6-8 curry leaves or one sprig
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 medium red onion finely sliced or diced shallots (2-3) (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper - 1/2 tbsp
  • Cooking oil or Coconut oil - 1 tbsp

Tamarind used for Keralite Fish curry


Cooking Time: 25-30 minutes| Preparation Time: 15 minutes | Serves 4-6

My grandma used to use the traditional mortar and pestle as displayed. She would also use coconut and shallots and crushed them with the spices to a paste. It used to have such a wonderful flavor. I can never replicate the same on repeated tries. She used to say it was a special skill to grind it in a particular way. She is right!

This dish is not for the light-hearted as it can be found to be spicy!

My grandma's mortar and pestle

1. Ensure that the fish is soaked in vinegar and salt with a dash of turmeric powder (1tsp) and cleaned and trimmed.
2. Also soak the curry leaves in warm water and cleaned well. (I say this only as these days people spray  a lot of chemicals on leaves)
3. Crush the ginger, garlic, shallots with the chili powder, pepper and half the salt requirement. I used a grinder but ran it enough only for the spices to blend and crush the ginger and garlic. After taking out the mix into a bowl, add some boiled, cooled water to the grinder/mortar and pestle and set aside. Do not throw away.

Ground Spices

4. Soak the tamarind in hot water with a dash of salt.
5. Hear a clay pot (traditionally called a manichatti). Add the oil (traditionally coconut oil is used) and once warm, add mustard seeds and allow to splutter.

6. Next add the Fenugreek (Uluva) seeds and follow with the drained curry leaves. Take care not to burn the curry leaves. Add the green chilis. You also have the option to add additional sliced onions or shallots as required.

7. Add the ground spices mix and allow it to fry, taking care not to brown or burn it. Cover and cook over a small flame for about 5 minutes.

Fenugreek seeds added

8. Squeeze the tamarind in its soaked water and add it to the fish along with the squeezed out tamarind pulp. Next add the ground spices-water you had set aside and any added water you may need for your gravy in case you require more gravy (Tip: do not add too much water otherwise the spices flavour will not turn out as good)

9. Stir well and cover for about 2 minutes on a medium flame. The gravy would be running a boil now. Lower the flame, stir well and then add the fish pieces slowly into the pot. Do not stir now. Cover and cook for the next 20-30 minutes on a medium flame.
Cooked Mackerel running its last boil

10. Uncover and turn off the flame. Serve hot with rice, tapioca, appam or puttu(steamed rice/wheat cake). (Tip:The fish curry gains more flavor and absorbs the spices after a day. You can continue to keep the fish in the clay pot for another 2 days depending on whether you have used coriander powder. If you have used coriander powder, pls. refrigerate). 
Note: You will find that the fish curry would still be bubbling which is why you need to uncover it to stop the cooking process. You can cover it again once it has cooled down.

Bon Appetit!

Nadan Ayla Curry Ready to be Served
Mackerel Gravy Served

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