Bengali mustard fish

Bengali mustard fish

I Love Curry
Jonathan Gregson

A classic, this is absolutely terrific and so different from other fish curries. It has very few ingredients, so they all play an important part. The fish should be in steaks so that they do not break up when you fry them, and the bones will ensure extra flavour. You can also use sea bass, bream or tilapia. The dish will not taste as good without the green chillies, so try it with them: you might find it spicy, but I bet you can’t stop eating! Mustard seeds can be bitter if overworked, so grind them only briefly in a spice grinder. Measure this powder, not the seeds, before adding it to the curry. Serve with plain boiled rice.


Quantity Ingredient
450g halibut steaks, left whole or quartered
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
salt, to taste
1 1/2 small tomatoes
3 fat garlic cloves
4-5 green chillies
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered brown mustard seeds, (see recipe introduction)
4 tablespoons mustard or vegetable oil
1 1/4 teaspoons nigella seeds
handful fresh coriander leaves


  1. Marinate the fish in ¼ tsp of the turmeric and a good pinch of salt, tossing with your hands to coat.
  2. Meanwhile, blend the tomatoes, garlic and two or three of the green chillies (deseeded if you are worried about their heat), a little more salt, the powdered mustard seeds, remaining turmeric and 150ml water to a smooth paste.
  3. If using mustard oil, heat 3 tbsp in a non-stick pan until smoking, then remove from the heat and wait for 30 seconds before proceeding with the recipe. If using vegetable oil, simply heat 3 tbsp of the oil. Add the nigella seeds and, once they have sizzled for 10 seconds, put in the tomato-chilli-mustard paste.
  4. Cook over a moderate flame until all the excess moisture has evaporated and the paste releases oil, stirring occasionally. Then reduce the heat and continue cooking for four minutes or so until it darkens a little. Add 400ml water and the remaining chillies; bring to a boil and simmer for seven or eight minutes. It should not be too watery, so cook until it has a medium consistency. Check the seasoning and keep it on a low heat.
  5. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan until smoking. Add the fish and fry well on all sides for about six minutes, until golden brown. Now put the fish in the mustard sauce, bring back to a boil and cook for two minutes. Gently shake in the coriander leaves and serve.
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