Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro

I mentioned in an earlier post that I made this dish for the Shabbat meal during Passover. Unfortunately, we did not take any photos. However, this is so delicious, I want to share it with you anyway. And to be perfectly honest, it does not make the most spectacular visual presentation, but the taste is amazing and even picky eaters enjoyed it. I saw the recipe  in the Washington Post just before the holiday and because Frances and her sister were also observing Lent, I knew that I needed to make fish as my main course. Since we also wanted to observe the laws of Kashrut where we didn’t mix milk with meat, this opened the door for me to make my Parsley Soup as a starter and to allow dairy in some of my appetizers.

The story of the Bene Israel is an interesting one and I encourage you to read about them. The community, mostly residing in Mumbai, is small, but their food traditions are definitely worth exploring. Some people believe that they are one of the Lost Tribes of Israel.

The only ingredients that you might have to spend a bit of time searching out are tamarind paste and fresh curry leaves. They are both available online and at any good Indian grocery store. Curry leaves have no good substitute and are not the same as curry powder. I bought mine through Amazon and froze what I didn’t use. Since this dish was so popular, I feel confident that I will make use of them in the future. All this dish needed was Basmati rice and some chutneys to accompany it.

Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro from Joan Nathan

Yield: 6 servings (I made enough for 12 people, using 4.5 pounds net of fish – after skinning and boning)


2 pounds whiting, black sea bass or other firm, light-fleshed skinned fillets, cut into 4 ounce chunks (I used halibut)

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more as needed

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I like the one I get from Rancho Gordo)

Juice of 1 lime

3 large cloves garlic

1-inch piece peeled ginger root, coarsely chopped (I would use about 1 Tablespoon of finely chopped or pureed fresh ginger)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

2 or 3 small green chiles, such as serrano, stemmed and seeded if you want less heat (I used jalapeno. Here is where you can control the heat to your personal tastes)

3 fresh/frozen curry leaves

1 Tablespoon tamarind paste

1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used Grapeseed oil)

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)

2 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into small dice (I used grape tomatoes cut in half – for this amount of fish, I would probably use 1/2 pint, but being exact isn’t that important)

1/2 cup water



  1. Place the fish in a nonreactive bowl or container. Sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, turmeric, chili powder and lime juice. Gently toss to coat, then cover and refrigerate for no more than a few hours, but at least 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, cilantro, green chilies (to taste), curry leaves, and tamarind paste in a food processor or blender. Puree to form a paste; transfer to a bowl. It is not the prettiest color but don’t be put off by that!
  3. Line a plate with a few layers of paper towels. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the fish (working in batches, as needed). Cook for about 2 minutes per side until golden. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the fish to the lined plate. Be gentle with the fish so you don’t break up the pieces.
  4. Wipe out the skillet, then add the remaining tablespoon of oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and tomatoes; cook for 5 to 8 minutes until the onion has softened, then stir in the garlic-tamarind paste. Add the water and stir through. Reduce the heat to medium-low; return the fish to the skillet and gently stir to incorporate, trying not to break up the fish pieces.
  5. Once the mixture has warmed through, the fish curry is ready to serve.

Ground Lamb with Potatoes and Yogurt Relish

img_2326It doesn’t take much to put me in the mood for Indian food. These recipes come from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, which Frances and Matthew sent me as a gift this past year. I like that the recipes are accessible to the home cook and yet filled with wonderful flavor. Madhur Jaffrey serves this dish with a moong dal, which I have blogged about in an earlier post. She calls this her family’s soul food. It isn’t the most visually spectacular dish, but the fragrance and flavors make it well-worth the effort. Somewhat amazingly – even to me – I only needed to buy yogurt and fresh spinach to make these three dishes.

Ground Lamb with Potatoes by Madhur Jaffrey and tweaked by me

Yield: 4 to 6 servings



3 Tablespoons canola oil or EVOO

Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks

1 medium onion finely chopped and 1 shallot

1 teaspoon finely grated, peeled fresh ginger

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 pounds ground lamb

3 Tablespoons plain yogurt (I used 2% Greek yogurt)

3 Tablespoons tomato puree plus 1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1.75 teaspoons Kosher salt

3-4 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes (I used Yukon Gold)


  1. Pour the oil into a large, heavy frying pan (I like cast iron) and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the cinnamon sticks and allow them to sizzle for 10 seconds.
  2. Add the onions and stir fry until they begin to brown at the edges. Then add the ginger and garlic and stir for one more minute.
  3. Add the lamb, stirring to break up any clumps and cook until all redness disappears.
  4. Add the yogurt, tomato puree, cumin, coriander, cayenne and turmeric and stir for one minute.
  5. Add the salt, potatoes and 1.25 cups of water. (This amount of water was cut from the original 2 cups and still yielded more liquid than I felt was necessary.) Stir and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low and cook gently for 30 minutes.

Yogurt Relish with Spinach

Yield: 4 servingsyogurt-relish


2 Tablespoons canola oil or EVOO

1/4 teaspoon whole brown or yellow mustard seeds

1/2 clove garlic, sliced thinly

5 ounces baby spinach leaves (If you are not using baby spinach, you will  need to remove the stems.)

Kosher salt to taste

1 cup plain yogurt (I used 2% Greek yogurt)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste


  1. Pour the oil into a small frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and as soon as they start to pop (a matter of seconds), add the garlic. Cook, stirring for a few seconds.
  2. Add the spinach and stir for about 5 minutes or until the spinach is cooked through. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and mix it through. After the spinach has cooled, I coarsely chopped it.
  3. Put the yogurt into a bowl and whisk lightly with a fork until creamy. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and the cayenne, stirring to mix.
  4. Just before eating, fold the entire contents of the frying pan into the yogurt.


Salmon in Bengali Mustard Sauce

Salmon with Mustard SauceFrances and Matthew bought me Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook, At Home With Madhur Jaffrey, as part of my most recent birthday present. They were both visiting this weekend for a friend’s wedding and tonight is my one night to feed them since they were at parties the rest of the time. It’s very hot today so I thought something a bit spicy would be nice. Normally I believe that if you have really good fish, you don’t hide it under a lot of sauce. However, tonight I’m trying this salmon recipe and was able to buy some lovely, fatty (those great Omega 3’s) King Salmon today  which is so flavorful that it should stand up to this sauce. We will have this along with Jaffrey’s  Moong Dal, Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash with Cumin and Brown Basmati rice recipes. I thought a fruity, but crisp rose would go well and made my blueberry almond struesel cake for dessert.  Other than changing the serving sizes, I am really not changing much of anything. Maybe when I am more comfortable making these recipes, I will take to tweaking them.

Salmon in Bengali Mustard Sauce

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings


For Fish Rub

2 pounds (net) of a fatty salmon, skinned, boned and cut into 8 pieces

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or Sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For Cooking

2 Tablespoons ground mustard (I like Coleman’s)

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or Sea salt

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1/2 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 fresh hot green or red chilies, slit slightly


  1. Place the rub spices in a freezer bag and shake to mix. Add the fish pieces, seal the bag well and gently toss to mix. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but up to 10 hours.
  2. Put the mustard powder, cayenne, turmeric and salt in a medium jar or bowl. Add 2 Tablespoons of cold water and stir through. Then add 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of cold water and mix well. Cover and set aside.
  3. Pour the EVOO into a large, heavy frying pan (cast iron is great) and set over medium-high heat. When it is hot, put in themustard seeds. As soon as they begin to pop, add the cumin and fennel seeds. This happens quickly so have everything ready.
  4. Stir and quickly add in the mustard paste. Add the green/red chilies, stir and bring to a gentle simmer.
  5. Place the fish in the sauce in a single layer. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through, spooning the sauce over the fish while it cooks. Salmon in panSalmon in pan2

Moong Dal and Lemony Ground Lamb


My birthday was Saturday and my wonderful son and daughter-in-law sent me the perfect gift – a cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey, amazing spices and a gift certificate for cooking lessons of my choice at a local school. I adore Indian food so I immediatelyt started reading Jaffrey’s book over my morning coffee. Some women get seduced by a new pair of shoes. My downfall is cooking ingredients and gadgets. We have some wonderful Indian/Pakistani stores in Chicago and I have things in my pantry that caught my eye, but somehow never got used.

I came across Jaffrey’s recipe for Moong Dal and since I never met a lentil that I didn’t like, I kept reading. While, it’s true that the average American cook doesn’t just happen to have moong dal and asafetida in the pantry, I actually do. I’m sure that I bought both after reading some recipe and then never got around to making it. Well, I am making it now! Jaffrey serves it with Basmati rice, which I always have on hand and she mentions Lemony Ground Lamb with Mint and Cilantro. Coincidentally, I have all of those ingredients and so am planning a mini-feast. It’s only a shame that Frances and Matthew aren’t here to share it with us since I know that they would enjoy this meal as well. Andrew and I are looking forward to many happy meals thanks to our children!

Of course, if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, the Moong Dal and Rice together are a wonderful meal, perhaps with another vegetable dish added. This is real comfort food.

Every Day Moong Dal by Madhur Jaffrey

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings


1 cup (7 ounces) moong dal (hulled and split mung beans) washed and drained

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon asafetida

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin sees

1 to 2 dried hot red chilies (the short cayenne type) or ground cayenne pepper to taste

1 medium shallot, peeled and cut into fine slivers


  1. Put the dal in a medium pot and add 3.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any froth.
  2. Add the turmeric, stir to mix and partially cover the pot. Turn the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and stir through. Turn off the heat.
  4. Pour the oil into a small, heavy frying pana nd set over medium heat-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the asfafetida, cumin seeds and chilies, quickly and in that order. As soon as the chilies darken (a matter of seconds), add the shallots. Stir and cook until the shallots brown and then quickly pour the contents over the cooked dal. Stir to mix and serve with the rice.

Lemony Ground Lamb by Madhur Jaffrey

Yield: 3-4 portions


2 Tablespoons olive or canola oil

2 2-inch sticks of cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 pound ground lamb (on the lean side)

2 teaspoons very finely grated, peeled fresh ginger

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1/4 tp 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves

1/4 to 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves

Juice of one lemon

3/4 teaspoon garam masala


  1. Pour the oil into a large, heavy-duty frying pan (I like cast iron) and set over medium high heat. When hot, put in the cinnamon sticks. Allow them to sizzle for a few seconds, until fragrant. Add the onions. Stir and fry the onions until the edges turn brown.
  2. Add the lamb and ginger, breaking up the lamb with a wooden spoon. Stir and fry for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add 3/4 cup of water, the salt and cayenne. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for about 40 minutes.
  4. Add the lemon juice and garam masala. The dish can be made ahead of time up to this point. When ready to serve, bring the mixture to a simmer and add the mint and cilantro, stirring through. Heat uncovered for about 5 minutes.

Serve with Basmati rice and the Moong Dal, Naan and any chutney of your choice. This can be wrapped in the flatbread and eaten as a wrap, with some chopped fresh tomatoes.

Chicken Tikka Masala

I was looking up spices for a recipe that Lisa had made when it occurred to me that I had no go-to purveyor of delicious spices in New York.  A quick Google search revealed that I worked only a few blocks from what turned out to be a most glorious spice shop that I cannot believe I’ve never been there!  The spice shop is called Kalustyan’s and walking into the store, further and further into rooms and rooms of spices, I felt like I was in cooking heaven.  It’s amazing that I didn’t run out of the store with more than one giant bag of things to cook and cook with, and I can’t wait to go back.


While perusing the aisles, one of the things that caught my eye was a “chicken tikka masala” spice blend.  I’m not usually one for spice mixes (unless it’s to sprinkle over some weekday chicken or salmon, for which I recommend this array of options).


I thought I would give it a whirl in combination with a recipe I found on Bon Appetit, and the result transported us to an Indian restaurant.  Matt’s request was that we try Lamb Vindalu next, so stay tuned, and maybe we’ll make it!


6 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 1/2 cups whole-milk yogurt (not Greek)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 2.8 oz package Kaluystan’s Chicken Tikka Masala blend
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste
6 cardamom pods, crushed
1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus sprigs for garnish
Steamed basmati or jasmine rice (for serving)


  1. Combine garlic and about 1/2 spice mix in a small bowl. Whisk yogurt, salt, and half of spice mixture in a medium bowl; add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and chill 4-6 hours. Cover and chill remaining spice mixture.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion, tomato paste, cardamom, and chiles and cook, stirring often, until tomato paste has darkened and onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the other half of the spice mixture and cook, stirring often, until bottom of pot begins to brown, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes with juices, crushing them with your hands as you add them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, until sauce thickens, 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add cream and chopped cilantro. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 30-40 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack inside sheet. Arrange chicken on rack in a single layer. Broil until chicken starts to blacken in spots (it will not be cooked through), about 10 minutes.
  6. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces, add to sauce, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 8-10 minutes. Serve with rice and cilantro sprigs.

Serves about 4-5

Adapted from Bon Appetit Chicken Tikka Masala