Try this recipe for deliciously spiced bass, with deep-fried soft-shelled crabs and a zingy mango chutney.
2 tbsp garlic oil
1kg/2 lb 4oz baby leaf spinach
2 handfuls curry leaves, chopped
4 salted cocum buds
1½ onions, chopped
1 large star anise
1½ tsp hot chilli powder
200ml/7fl oz tamarind pulp
½ tsp salt
4 tbsp coconut oil
¼ tsp black mustard seeds
1 x 1kg/2lbs 4oz large wild sea bass, butterflied, pin bones removed
2 large banana leaves
2 tbsp coconut oil
¼ tsp mustard seeds
3 dried red chillies, finely chopped
15 curry leaves, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp chilli powder
1-2 tbsp chopped tomatoes
1 x 400ml/14fl oz can coconut milk
100ml/3½fl oz water
1 small green mango, peeled, finely chopped
3 tbsp tamarind pulp
squeeze lime juice
salt, to taste
100g/3½oz gram flour
½ tsp ajwain (carom) seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan and ground to a coarse powder
1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
¾ tsp black salt
3 tbsp yoghurt
½ lemon, juice only
50ml/2fl oz sparkling water
handful finely chopped coriander
corn oil, for frying
8 small soft-shell crabs
1 tbsp chaat masala
For the green mango chutney, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and season, to taste, with salt. Set aside.
For the Keralan sour bass, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
Heat a splash of garlic oil in a pan and fry the spinach for 2-3 minutes, or until just wilted. Remove the spinach and set aside.
Blend half of the curry leaves, the cocum buds, onions, star anis, chilli powder, tamarind and salt in a food processor to a smooth paste.
Heat the coconut oil in a saucepan and fry the mustard seeds for 1-2 minutes, or until they begin to pop (take care to avoid the seeds popping into your eyes). Add the remaining curry leaves and onion paste and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Season the bass with salt and spread over the cooled mixture. Fold the fish in half along the spine. Wrap the fish in greaseproof paper and then wrap in one of the banana leaves.
Bake the fish for 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove the fish from the oven and unwrap it.
Carefully open the fish up and stuff it with the wilted spinach. Wrap in the remaining banana leaf.
Meanwhile, for the Alleppey sauce, heat the coconut oil in a saucepan and fry the mustard seeds for 1-2 minutes, or until they begin to pop. Add the dried chilli, curry leaves, garlic and ginger paste and onion. Season with salt and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the turmeric, chilli powder and chopped tomatoes and cook for a further minute.
Stir in the coconut milk, water and mango. Bring the mixture to the boil, add the tamarind, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and season, to taste, with salt.
For the soft-shell crab, mix the gram flour, cornflour, ajwain powder, chilli powder and black salt together in a bowl. Whisk in the yoghurt, garlic and ginger paste, lemon juice and sparkling water until smooth. Stir in the coriander.
Heat the oil in a deep heavy-bottomed pan, until a breadcrumb sizzles and turns brown when dropped into it. (CAUTION: hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended.)
Dip the crabs in the batter and deep-fry for 5-6 minutes, or until crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside to drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with the chat masala.
To serve, place the fish onto a large serving plate. Pile the crab onto a serving plate and spoon the chutney and Allepy sauce into serving bowls.
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Emily Watkins, Dominic Chapman and Josh Eggleton present their starter courses.
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