Keralan Fish Curry with Crispy Shallots

by Susan Smith in , ,

Since I started my blog writing career (can’t believe it’s only 3 months ago!), I’ve been focused on researching and developing recipes à la Primal - basically, dissing all junk food and substituting healthy ingredients for grains, refined sugar, unhealthy fats, beans/legumes. Then my sister phoned last weekend asking for “simpler things to cook”. She has a point.

Beyond the consideration of limiting my list of ingredients to Primal-friendly and the creative endeavour of bringing them together in harmony for visually exciting, flavourful food, what if some people can’t, or don’t have much time, to cook? I don’t want to cop out by ignoring the problem, so I’ve rummaged through my collection of recipes and found some fast and gloriously easy food to make. Today’s recipe is an adaptation of Keralan Fish Curry taken from a Waitrose recipe card (February 2012) found lurking in the back of my kitchen cupboard!

This tamarind-tangy, yet delicately sweet and spicy fish curry, looks and tastes ‘the business’ but actually takes less that 30 minutes to prepare and cook.

True, I’ve added one extra cooking process by dressing my version up with crispy fried shallots because a) I don’t like raw onion in any of it’s guises (so anti-social when you breathe near someone else!) and b) crispy shallots are fantastic for adding extra flavour and texture - especially juxtaposed against the creamy and aromatic flavours of this curry. They shouldn’t cause ‘cook meltdown’ because they can be made several hours ahead, or even the day before.

Keralan Fish Curry with Crispy Shallots (Serves 4)

Ingredients - for the fish curry

4 x (200g each) sustainably sourced haddock fillets, skinned 

2 tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp chilli powder

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

25g (1oz) coconut oil

2 onions, very thinly sliced (I use OXO’s hand held mandolin slicer)

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp black mustard seeds

400ml (15 fl oz) full-fat organic coconut milk

1 tbsp tamarind paste

5 cm (2”) piece fresh ginger, grated

225g (8 oz) frozen peas

Handful of fresh coriander leaves (or coriander micro sprouts)

1 long red chilli, seeded and thinly sliced

Crispy shallots slices (see separate recipe below) or 2 spring onions, finely sliced



Combine the turmeric and chilli powders. Sprinkle the fish fillets with the combined spices, season with sea salt and black pepper and set aside.

Boil a kettle of water. Measure the frozen peas into a heatproof jug, pour the boiling water over the peas to defrost them, strain through a wire sieve and set aside.

Melt coconut oil in a large pan over a moderate heat and gently fry the onions with the cumin and mustard seeds for 10 minutes, or until golden. 

Add the coconut milk, tamarind paste and grated ginger, stir well and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the fish to the pan, cover and simmer gently for 5-6 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through. 

Add the peas to the pan, bring the sauce back to a gentle simmer and cook for a further minute.

Using a fish slice, carefully transfer the fish fillets to 4 warm soup plates/bowls. Spoon the sauce over and around, then top with fresh coriander leaf, slivers of chilli and crispy shallots.

Serve immediately.


Crispy Shallots (based on a David Tanis recipe)


175ml / 6 fl oz good quality oil, for frying (I used Clearspring sunflower frying oil but organic ghee or coconut oil are also safe/healthy oils for cooking)

4 medium-sized shallots, peeled and finely sliced 

Sea salt



Put the cold oil into a smallish saucepan. Add the sliced shallots and place over medium heat. 

Cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until they gradually become brown (turn down the heat if the shallots seem to be colouring too quickly)

Place a fine-meshed sieve over a bowl. Transfer the cooked shallots to the sieve and let them drain well.

Tip the shallots onto a plate lined with a paper towel. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and allow to cool - they will crisp up as they do. 



I like my fish fillets left whole, but if your pan isn’t big enough to hold them in a single layer, cut into bite-size chunks and reduce the cooking time i.e. from 5-6 minutes (for fillets) to 3-4 minutes (for chunks). 

If you don’t want the extra effort (not much, apart from slicing!) involved in making crispy shallots, you can finish the dish with 2 finely sliced salad onions instead. 

Crispy shallot slices are fantastic sprinkled over chops and burgers, and just as good on salads or steamed vegetables. They may be made several hours ahead, or even the day before. The flavourful cooking oil is ‘pure gold’ for cooks so save it in a sealed container and use it for other recipes.


Carbohydrate 19g Protein 39g - per serving of fish curry

Carbohydrate 1g Protein 0g - per serving of crispy shallots