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Meen Molee

Meen Molee
Meen Molee with pilau rice

Meen molee is a family favourite. For some reason fish (other than king prawns) do not feature too much on the British curry landscape and this is a great shame.

I usually make it mild-medium spicy but have also made it very fiery on occassion. This is a dish from Kerala on the South West coast of India, south of Goa and is a classic fish dish cooked in coconut milk. It doesn't have many spices but don't be deceived - it is absolutely packed with flavour.

Basic Ingredients

Fillets of fish about ½ - ¾lb (225-350g).
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 inch (2cm) root ginger
1 fresh green chilli
3 plum tomatoes or 200gm tinned tomatoes
Coconut milk
Double cream
2 teaspoons white flour
Oil for cooking

1 teaspoon coriander seeds
teaspoon fennel seeds
Handful of fresh coriander leaves

Notes on Ingredients

Fish You can use any type of white fish, I have used cod and haddock mostly, monk fish is particularly good as it does not break up at all easily, in any case it is best to use quite thick fillets to make it nice and chunky without the fish disintegrating. The amounts specified here with just a simple rice dish will feed 3-4.

Chilli. Use as much or as little as you want here. 1 medium strength chilli gives this a nice kick without causing offence.

Coconut milk. You can buy this in tins and it comes both thick and thin, but what I prefer is to make my own by soaking ½lb (250g) desiccated coconut in boiling water for about 15 minutes and then squeezing the water out.

Double Cream. This is optional (and probably not in the traditional meen molee recipes) but I like it. If you use tinned coconut milk (the thicker kind) then you probably don't need this.

Oil. A lot of meen molee recipes if have read have been non-commital about the oil, coconut oil is good for this but is not to everyone's taste; you can buy this in some Tesco's these days. Ghee is also very good as is peanut oil. You can use normal vegetable oil if you have to.

Spices. You can experiment here as well but don't overdo it, this dish is full of subtle flavours and too much spice will kill them. This combination does go well though.

Salt. If you are really paranoid about salt (and some people are) then you can leave this out but I would not recommend it; for some reason this dish does seem to need a sprinkling of salt.

Basic Method

Meen Molee
Fish resting in salt and pepper

Cut the fish into nice 1-1 inch (2-3cm) chunks.
Put in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and a couple of twists of the pepper grinder, leave this to rest while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Peel, quarter and slice the onion.
Peel and mash the garlic.
Peel the ginger and cut into tiny dice.
If using fresh plum tomatoes then put in boiling water for a few minutes to loosen the skins then peel and chop into a bowl, removing any stalk.
Prepare the coconut milk if making your own (otherwise just open the tin).
Stir the flour into the coconut milk.
Heat a dry frying pan and roast the coriander and fennel for a minute or so then grind to a fine powder.

Meen Molee
Meen Molee ready to serve

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan
Put in the onions, garlic, ginger and chilli.
Turn the heat down after about a minute and then cook until the onions are really soft and melted.
Turn up the heat again and put in the ground spices.
After a couple of minutes put in the chopped tomatoes and juice.
Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes and then put in the fish.
After just a minute or so put in the coconut milk.
Turn down the heat again and let this simmer for about 10 minutes.
Stir in 1 tablespoon double cream and pour into a serving dish.
Garnish with coriander leaves.

Notes on Method

Onions, garlic and ginger. An alternative here is to blend all these in a blender and then just fry for a couple of minutes rather than softening them by prolonged slow frying. A few meen molee recipes I have read have suggested this and both methods are ok.

Coconut oil. This is a white solid at room temperature but melts quickly if you run it under the hot tap or stand in hot water.

Cream. As I mentioned above, if you use thick coconut milk (aka coconut cream) then you can omit this. I have done both and slightly prefer the homemade coconut milk and double cream version.

Garnish. If you make your own coconut milk, you can also sprinkle some of the used desiccated coconut on top before the coriander leaves.

I usually serve meen molee just with pilau rice but if you want more then a nice lentil dish such as masoor daal also goes well as a side dish.

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