monkfish curry
© Andy Sewell

There were two destinations on the hippie trail. You could go north to Kathmandu, where there was a lot of dope and mountains, or south to Goa, where there was a lot of dope and beaches. In either case it was said that people had got lost – mentally and spiritually, that is – and never returned. Although a fledgling hippie myself, I was too chicken to go to either but wandered around between the two, making it out to Calcutta and beyond and eventually retreating when the money ran out.

I cannot say I ate very well on my modest budget back then. Meals were mostly a succession of fiery curries interrupted by a regime of railway breakfasts – eggs and cornflakes – while the digestive system recovered. The highlights were the thali trays that you were given on the trains – well-prepared meals with rice, dhal, a little mutton, some form of bread and a little pickle. It was hardly a Rick Stein-like tour, exploring the differences between biryani and pilau or sampling vibrant fish curries fresh off the beach.

I don’t regret missing out on Kathmandu but Goa has been on my wish list for some time now. I like the idea of it, I like the fact that its strange cultural inheritance breaks the rules: nothing could be more invigorating, or proscribed in the rest of India, than a good pork vindaloo, and I really want to experience one of those fish curries in situ. Those of us who eat in “Indian” restaurants in the UK have little idea – but then fish and the Bangladeshi curry house make poor bedfellows.

I have been saying for some time that for British cuisine truly to come of age, we must come to terms with our Indian diet and work it into our repertoire. Thanks to educators like Rick Stein, I feel it is really starting to happen.

Rowley Leigh is the chef at Le Café Anglais

A Goan fish curry


Delicate fish is a waste of time here: its flavour will be murdered and it will quickly fall apart. Robust fish is required: dogfish, gurnard, ling, conger eel and monkfish are all good. Serves six.

monkfish curry
© Andy Sewell

1 tbs coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

3 star anise

15 clove heads

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp fenugreek seeds

6 cloves garlic

1 tbs roughly chopped, peeled root ginger

4 green chillies

1 tsp tamarind paste

2 onions

2 tomatoes

1 tbs sugar

2 tbs white wine or cider vinegar

400ml coconut milk

15 curry leaves

800g firm textured fish

1 tsp turmeric

250g peeled prawns

Juice of 1 lime

Half a bunch of coriander

● Heat a dry frying pan and roast the coriander seeds and cumin seeds with the star anise and cloves, tossing them regularly until they start to give off a powerful, toasty aroma. Place all these seeds in a mortar with the fenugreek and salt and grind them until really fine. Transfer these ingredients to a food processor and add the peeled cloves of garlic, the ginger, the chillies (having removed the seeds) and the tamarind paste. Blend this mixture together to make a fine paste. This aromatic concoction is the masala.

● Peel and slice the onions and stew them in three tablespoons of oil (or ghee) until quite soft and beginning to colour before adding the masala. Continue to cook and stir until the mixture starts to dry up and the spices begin to give off a powerful scent. Add the tomatoes – for authenticity’s sake, I merely chop them into small pieces, skin on – followed by the sugar and vinegar. Continue to simmer and, once the raw vinegar flavour has cooked out, pour in the coconut milk and a small glass of water and let this curry mix cook for a quarter of an hour.

● Cut the fish into large chunks and lightly salt. Heat a non-stick frying pan with 2 tbs of oil or ghee and fry the curry leaves gently, then lift out with a slotted spoon and add to the curry. Fry the fish lightly in this scented oil. Sprinkle the ensemble with turmeric and add the prawns. As soon as all sides of the fish and prawns are seared, decant the contents of the pan into the curry and finish cooking the fish.

● Squeeze the lime juice into the curry. Tear off the coriander leaves and throw into the stew, which should taste quite fiery but rich and have an invigorating acidity. Serve with plain Basmati rice, rinsed thoroughly with cold water before boiling for about nine minutes in well-salted water and then drained.


Rowley’s drinking choice

Wine is not really going to work although diehards could try a spicy Alsace Gewürztraminer, perhaps, served very cold. Rick Stein recommends a Kingfisher beer and it sounds good to me.


To comment on this article please post below, or email

Get alerts on Life & Arts when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section