Elina's Red Fish Curry

This is my friend Elina's red fish curry that was cooked in a shallow earthenware vessel..that I've never been able to get. Everytime I cook this I remember our days in Yelahanka or, where the fish for this was generally bought from the fish vendor who came down the street with fresh fish in a cart of questionable cleanliness..fortunately the fish is well cooked in its bath of red chillies, so we never had to worry about any tummy troubles!

This is written in my old red diary, and I reproduce it here almost in Elina's own words - I can remember sitting with her at our dining table while I scribbled down the recipe.

You will need a wide shallow pan which will take most of the fish in a single layer.

1 kg Seer (Spanish Mackerel) or Nile Perch or Basa
Cut into steaks, or if its already in fillets, chop into 10 cm bits. While Seer or Surmai, is the best fish for this, any white fish works.
Do not do the usual indian thing and anoint with salt and turmeric, as we want this curry to be as red as possible.

 4-5 cocum (Malayalee tamarind)
or some tamarind, but only if you must.
 Soak in warm water for as long as possible.

4 tablespoons Extra light Olive Oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
a dozen curry leaves
1/5 inches of ginger, chopped fine
A handful of small onions, peeled, or 2 onions chopped

 Place the pan on the heat, and when heated pour in the oil. Pop the mustard seeds, curry leaves, ginger and onions, in that order. Fry quickly without letting it brown.
Handful of Kashmiri chillies
1/2 teaspoon of haldi or turmeric
1/2 pod of garlic
All the above ground with the minimum of water, or no water at all if possible

 Add the ground spices to the pan, and turn the heat down. Cook very slowly as you don't want to lose the bright red colour for barely a minute, you just want the raw smell of the garlic to evaporate.
Remove from the heat
2 cups of warm water, less or more as needed.

Carefully layer the fish into the pan, shaking from side to side to mix the masala (spices). Arrange the cocum between the pieces of fish, and add enough water to cover the fish.  Sprinkle the salt over the fish. Place it back on the heat allow to come to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer till cooked. Shake the pan a bit if you suspect the fish is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

 1 tablespoon coconut oil if you have it
When it is just cooked, add the cocout oil and shake the pan from side to side. Bring to the boil for a minute and then remove.

Serve immediately and eat with white rice, a salad and pieces of fried fish. Or just on its own. If heaven is red and fishy flavoured, this is it!