Fish Kitchari

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Mitch Tonks came to Appledore book festival to talk about fish and his new book. Mitch runs the hugely successful seafood restaurant “The Seahorse” in Dartmouth. He is passionate about fish cookery and using fresh local ingredients. Amongst other things he sited Bideford Bay as having the best squid, possibly in the whole of Europe! Of course, I had to buy his book and he does indeed mention the early summer squid of Bideford in the book and includes a recipe that braises them in white wine. He also told me that the winter cod in the SW waters was not only plentiful but also amongst the best. I found a recipe in his book for “Cod with Lentils” and as the weather has turned extremely wintery it seemed a good opportunity to try it. I wanted to make it a bit more substantial, so I have adapted the recipe to include just a little veg and rice.

However, I am used to dealing with seasonal veg but with fish it also depends on the moon, the tides, the wind, probably the sun and stars as well! An autumnal gale had sprung up over the weekend and there was no fish to be had at all! Luckily there was a bit of haddock in the freezer so I used that – I guess this would work with any other white fish as well. Serves 2

Haddock with Kitchari

Ingredients * 2 haddock fillets about 150g each * good knob butter * ¼ teaspoon turmeric * ¼ teasp salt * 1 teasp lemon juice

*50g small brown lentils *60g onion *25g celery *35g carrot *15ml olive oil *2 cloves garlic *small knob ginger *1 teaspoon ground coriander *1 teaspoon ground cumin *½ teaspoon turmeric *1 bay leaf *350ml stock *60g basmati rice *1 tomato *fresh coriander, chopped *salt and pepper

Slice the onion in half moons and finely dice the carrot and celery. Wash the lentils and drain. Wash the rice until the water runs clear and set aside in a sieve to drain. Remove the skin and seeds from the tomato and chop it into dice. Chop the garlic and ginger as finely as you can, mix them together and crush them on the chopping board with the back of a knife. Put half a level teaspoon of this in a small cup and mix with the salt, lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon turmeric. Set aside – its for the fish later. Put the olive oil in a saucepan and put over a medium heat. Add the onions, stir and fry for 2 minutes then add the celery and carrot. Turn the heat down and sweat for 2 – 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the remaining garlic/ginger mix and the lentils, followed by the ground spices and the bay leaf. When this is thoroughly mixed, add the stock, bring to the boil, cover and turn down the heat to simmer for about 25 minutes, adding a little more stock or water as necessary. Place the fish on a plate, skin side down, making sure there are no scales or pin bones left. Take the lemon/garlic/ginger/salt mix and rub it into the white side of the fish fillet. Set aside for 10 – 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a small pan of water to the boil and add the rice. Cook for about 7 – 8 minutes, until it is soft on the outside but not going “fluffy”. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop further cooking. Return to the lentils, which should now be cooked. Take off the heat and liquidize about 1/3 with a hand blender then return it to the pan. You should have quite a thick glossy mixture that you can stir easily but that also mounds on the spoon. Return the lentils to a slow heat and fold in the drained rice and the tomato. Stir to mix being careful not to damage the rice grains. When it is heated through, add salt and pepper to taste, cover and turn off the heat. Take a small frying pan, with a lid that can take both the fish slices, side by side. Put it on a medium heat and add the knob of butter. When it is hot, put the fish in, white side down and fry for 3 – 5 minutes, then flip them over to the skin side down. Fry for 2 minutes, cover with the lid and turn off the heat. This needs to rest for 5 minutes. To serve, add the coriander to the rice and lentils and divide among two plates. Lift the fish out of the frying pan with a spatula, leaving the skin behind, and place on the rice mixture. Pour any juices left in the pan over the fish. Garnish if you like with Greek yoghurt and a dab of your favourite chutney.