This looks like a long list of ingredients, but many of them will be in your cupboard and all chopping is done in the food processor. Any white fish fillets such as perch or tilapia can replace catfish. Serve the stew with boiled rice.

Serves 4

  • 2 medium onions, cut in chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, outer husks removed and inner core cut in chunks
  • 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 fresh jalapeño chile pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1⅔ cup unsweetened coconut milk (a 13.5 fl oz can)
  • 1½ pounds catfish fillets
  • 1 pound tomatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • juice of 1 lime, more to taste
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Put the onion, garlic, lemon grass, ginger, chile pepper, coriander, fennel and cumin seed in a processor and purée until finely chopped. Transfer the purée to a saucepan and stir in the turmeric, nutmeg, salt and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes, stirring often.  Taste, adding more of any of the spices as you prefer.

2. Rinse the fish, dry it and cut it in diagonal strips. Put it in a medium saucepan and top with the tomatoes. Pour over the spice broth and bring just to a simmer, stirring once or twice. Simmer until the fish just flakes, 3 to 5 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the lime juice and cilantro, taste and adjust seasoning.

GETTING AHEAD: The spicy broth can be prepared up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated.
Reheat it, cook the fish, and add lime juice and cilantro just before serving.

From The Good Cook: 70 Essential Techniques, 250 Step-by-Step Photographs, 350 Recipes by Anne Willan. Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2004.
Photo CREDIT: Alison Harris.