Realizing how hungry I was, I headed home to fix an easy dinner. I went for what I had in the freezer: fresh salmon. I grabbed red shallots and garlic from the kitchen counter and left the salmon thaw in hot water. I thought about sitting at the dining table but decided to work standing in the spacious kitchen island. I sipped the masala chai. It was deep brown and wonderful. It smelled of cardamon, ginger and cloves, reminding me of monsoon in India. It was exactly what you want a great cup of tea to be. I was recharged by the last sip.
As I peeled the onions and garlic, I thought about the day ahead. Telephone ranged. It was my mom. After exchanging pleasantries, I was telling her about making a savory tamarind sauce and then baking the salmon with it. I planned to follow my grandmother’s meen kozhambhu recipe but I remembered a different recipe my MIL had for the same dish. She offered to make the base sauce. I went ahead with her family recipe.
We decided to make a thick sauce with tamarind pulp, tons of garlic and shallots. The magical vadagam which my grandmother has sent found a spot in the recipe. MIL insisted that we add tons of curry leaves too. I was sure the combination of these ingredient will be a major success. She soaked yellow split peas (toor dhal) with peeled shallots for thirty minutes and ground them to a fine paste. Generous helping of tamarind pulp was added to this paste and mixed with hand. In the meanwhile, a large non-stick pan was heated with oil and she threw in vadagam, curry leaves, whole onions and chopped garlic. She quickly walked me through the steps.
The kitchen air was filled with the flavors of South India. Few spice powders were sprinkled and the tamarind mixture was poured in and the tangy base was left to cook by itself for an hour or so. All in all, such a decadent meal was getting ready. Once the sauce thickened to perfection, I spooned a good amount of it over the meaty salmon and baked it the same way as I did for this dish – salmon baked with mint-cilantro sauce. The fat salmon was encased in savory tamarind sauce and served with one of the healthiest side: roasted purple potatoes. Together it was a killer combination. You can serve it with brown/white rice too.
There is a similar recipe for fish curry (meen kozhambhu) I wrote for my good friend Kankana. Hop over to her beautiful blog for the recipe and her amazing blog with gorgeous pictures and fool-proof recipe will keep you busy for the next few hours. This is my second recipe for the Copper river salmon series. You can read more details about them in my previous post. Don’t miss to check out the recipe for salmon baked with mint- cilantro sauce.
Breakfast should be the most filling meal for the day, that’s what health gurus say. For a change, we ate a pretty heavy dinner with chunks of thick salmon, potatoes and rice. And for dessert that night we had homemade pecan ice cream. The salmon dish was creamy, meaty, tangy and savory all at once. The rice were fluffy and simple. The purple potatoes was perfectly cooked, neither too mushy nor under-cooked, velvety and delicious on the tongue. Over all, a lip smacking meal to keep us full for the next few days
SALMON BAKED WITH PULI KOZHAMBHU
(SAVORY TAMARIND SAUCE)
Serves : 4-6
4 salmon fillet
For the tamarind sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vadagam
15 curry leaves
10 shallots – whole + 10 more for the puree
10 garlic – chopped into chunks
1 large tomato chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1-2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 cup tamarind pulp
2 tablespoon yellow split peas (toor dhal)
4 cups water
Salt to taste
1. Soak the yellow split peas and shallots for 30 minutes. Drain and puree them. Mix it with the tamarind pulp and water. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in a large pan. Once they are hot, add vadagam and saute for a minute. Then add the curry leaves and let it crisp up. Throw in the shallots, garlic and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Mix in the tomatoes and saute for 8-10 minutes.
4. Sprinkle turmeric, chilli and coriander powder and cook for another couple of minutes, until the raw smell disappears. Pour the the yellow split peas-shallots-tamarind water and cook covered for 30-45 minutes, until they begin to thicken. Add salt to taste. Switch off the flame and let it rest until ready to assemble.
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