“Given they form the base of so many curried dishes, we know that tomatoes are a fine match for spice – I think probably because they are sweet and acidic, and the best of them are boldly flavoured. They shouldn’t, though, be limited to a background role: a curry of *just* tomatoes is a very fine thing indeed. This is nearly that, but after a few tests I decided to include baked cod, though I do think the fish plays second fiddle.
Enjoy the golden, spiced yoghurt in two stages: initially as a cool and bright contrast to the curried tomatoes, fish and plain rice, and then, about halfway into eating, stirred through the rest of the curry to make the sauce smooth and creamy.” – Ed Smith
This is an edited extract from Crave by Ed Smith, published by Quadrille Books, and is available where all good books are sold.
Photography by Sam A Harris
Serves: 4 – 6
2–3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp white peppercorns
3 green cardamom pods
1 tsp ground turmeric
Around 25 curry leaves (usually 2 sprigs)
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1–2 tbsp water
1.2kg (2lb 10oz) cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
30g (1oz) butter, sliced
4–6 x 120g (4¼oz) fillets cod, ideally skin on
Flaky sea salt
For the turmeric yoghurt
2 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed (canola) oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground turmeric
6 tbsp Greek yoghurt
Pinch flaky sea salt
Serve with brown rice and finely sliced mild green chilli (optional) as a garnish.
Heat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/325°F. Put a casserole dish, or similar, over a medium heat. Add two tablespoons of oil, the onions and a big pinch of salt. Cook gently for 15–20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden – we’re not aiming for fully browned in this instance.
Meanwhile, measure all the dry spices, except the turmeric, into a dry pan and toast over a low heat for 3–4 minutes until fragrant. Decant into a spice grinder or pestle and mortar and reduce to a powder, then stir in the turmeric. Add the curry leaves, bay leaves and garlic to the onion and cook for 2 minutes more, then add 2 heaped tablespoons of the ground spices and a tablespoon or two of water. (You will have some spice powder left over – potentially to be added later, but otherwise reserve for a generic ‘curry powder’ moment.)
Add two thirds of the tomatoes to the pan and mix with the onions. Sprinkle with the sugar, dot with the butter and place in the oven (without a lid) for 1 hour 20 minutes. Give it a shuffle after 30 minutes to ensure the onions and tomatoes are mingling, then 20 minutes later add the remaining tomatoes and carefully mix. Return to the oven for the final (pre-fish) 30 minutes.
Stir another tablespoon of the ground spices into the tomatoes, then sit the fish skin-side up, pushing them 1–2cm (½–¾in) below the surface so that they part-poach, part-bake. Return to the oven, still uncovered, for 12–14 minutes so the fish is just cooked – flaking but still succulent.
While the curry is cooking, make the turmeric yoghurt. Heat the rapeseed oil, add the garlic and cook gently for 1–2 minutes without burning. Remove from the heat, add the turmeric, stir and allow to cool. Just before eating, add to the yoghurt with a pinch of salt and stir vigorously until bright yellow.
Peel the skin from the fish and serve with ladles of tomatoes alongside brown rice and turmeric yoghurt, with fresh green chilli scattered to taste.