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I'm a London-based food writer, stylist and author. Click here to see more about me and my work

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Goan fish curry


This recipe was created for my book last summer, after devouring a divine fish curry at the Cornbury musical festival. Juicy chunks of white fish were poached in a bracing tomato base and topped with cucumber, coriander and red onion salad. I ate it for lunch and dinner while I was there, never tiring of it. Surprisingly, the food at festivals is quite good with everything from Thai to Jamie Oliver pasta. But then what food doesn’t taste AMAZING after you’ve been drinking all day? Whether it was an outrageous dish or alcohol-induced memory, I was keen to recreate it. When I got home I set about trying to concoct it. Initially I tried using coconut milk but it lacked the freshness I previously tasted. Using dried desiccated coconut, I achieved a much better result. With a little tamarind and few subtle spices thrown in, it started to resemble the festival curry. Not only a summer dish, its very appealing for this time of year when you crave stews and curries. Use the best ripe tomatoes you can find, either plum or cherry tomatoes. In the winter, tomatoes are lacking (unless you live in Italy) so use two tins of peeled plum tomatoes instead. Preparing the base for this couldn’t be easier. It all gets puréed in the blender and cooked up slowly with onion and grated coconut. Talapia is an excellent fish to use (dead cheap as well), with a mild taste and meaty texture. Avoid cod and haddock, which are too flaky and fall apart. Halibut, Ling, monkfish, red snapper, or even large prawns all hold up well. So if you need to feed a crowd or want a healthy Sunday lunch, this fits the bill.

Goan tomato and coconut fish curry
preparation time 25 minutes
cooking time 45 minutes
serves 6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
100g tamarind purée (I buy Barts prepared in little jars)
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
400 ml/14 fl oz vegetable or chicken stock
750 g/1 lb 10 oz skinless firm white fish fillets, cut into large chunks
40g/½ cup grated fresh coconut or dried coconut flakes, toasted

Goan curry paste
5 cm (2 inch) knob of ginger, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 thumb sized green chillies, seeded and roughly chopped
10 ripe plum tomatoes (750g), cut into chunks
20g or large handful coriander (cilantro) roughly chopped

To make the Goan curry paste, place all the ingredients, except some of the coriander leaves, in a blender and blend until a smooth purée forms. (This will grind the paste finer than a food processor as it has 4 blades instead of a 2.) Add a little water to thin, if necessary.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5–6 minutes or until softened. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring continuously for 3–4 minutes or until fragant. Add the tamarind, sugar and spices and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour in the stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the fish and cook for 5 minutes or until just cooked through. If the curry is too thick, add about 125 ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) water to thin it down. The consistency will vary depending on the ripeness of your tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and scatter with coriander leaves. Serve with chopped red onion and green chili to serve alongside.


  1. Emma says:

    Aagghh the lovely festival goan fish curry, everyone’s favourite, don’t think you need any beer to enjoy this though obviously always a nice enhancement!

  2. mealsinheels says:

    Yeah but beer is really good with this!

  3. That picture looks delish! My stomach is rumbling and it’s 6.30am. Fairly straightforward recipe that takes away the fear of attempting a complex Indian curry. I’m Indian and even I get itimidated at times.

  4. mealsinheels says:

    Well that is indeed a compliment coming from someone who is Indian. Thank you.

  5. Mick says:

    The best fish curry i’ve ever made. Ive tried several recipes and this is by far the best. Caught my own fish for it as well. Highly recommended.

  6. mealsinheels says:

    Thank you! That is a great compliment. Thats’ fabulous you have such fresh fish. You will have to buy the book because there’s more where that came from.

  7. Claire says:

    just made this last night and it was a HUGE hit. Thank you so much! Only question, where do we include the toasted coconut? Is that just a garnish?

  8. mealsinheels says:

    Ah, the toasted coconut is used for a garnish. Purely for prettiness! Glad to hear you liked it. Are you in the UK or US?

  9. Su-Lin says:

    Looks delicious! And simple too.

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