Spice blends play a fundamental role in South Asian cooking, especially when it comes to flavorful curries. But O Tama Carey, founder of Lankan Filling Station in Darlinghurst, says a good spice mix can work with a wide range of dishes, including something as distinctly Australian as a Murray cod.
“This recipe explores the idea of mixing spices, but not into a curry powder,” Carey says of her rustic Murray cod recipe. Inspired by the crunch of fried coriander seeds, Carey developed a spice blend that balances the different textures. Coarsely ground coriander seeds and curry leaves sit alongside slightly finer fennel seed powder and finely ground mustard seeds, peppercorns and salt, and a touch of chilli powder. Whether you use a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle, it’s all about achieving the right consistencies.
Carey says getting the spices right is more important than limiting your choice of fish. “I think it’s more important to rely on the style of fish rather than the specific type,” Carey says. “Murray cod is very oily and has quite an earthy flavor that helps it stand up to the spice mix. If you get anything more delicate, you’ll lose the flavor of the fish.
Any other cod will work just as well, as will a meaty monkfish or a blue eye. Carey advises getting hold of a big piece of loin. When preparing and cooking, your main concern is to get the right spice mix.
“Cooking and serving fish is very simple: it’s all in one pan,” says Carey. “You have a butter and herb sauce with sage and capers, so it’s really crispy. And there’s buckwheat under the fish, so there’s a lot of texture. It’s a jumble of goodness.
The unique pan for cooking and serving fish makes cleanup easy. “It’s not really a lot of work other than the spice mix,” she says. “You don’t even have to wash too many pans.” Transfer the pan to an oven like the AEG steam ovenmeans the fish will stay moist and the heat will be evenly distributed from the surface to the core.
Here’s how to make O Tama Carey’s Spice-Rubbed Murray Cod at home.
Spice Rubbed Murray Cod with Sage, Curry Leaves and Caper Burnt Butter Sauce
For 4 people
Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes
600g skinless Murray cod fillet or two, room temperature
40g coriander seeds
3 sprigs of curry leaves, picked
20g fennel seeds
8g brown mustard seeds
5g black peppercorns
5 g salt flakes
10g chilli powder
100g of butter
½ cup picked sage leaves
½ cup picked curry leaves
20g of capers
60ml lemon juice
To prepare the spice blend, toast the coriander seeds and curry leaves in a shallow skillet over medium-high heat, stirring regularly (for even cooking) for about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat and continue grilling until the seeds darken, the leaves dry out and the aroma strengthens – about 4 minutes total. Pour into a bowl.
Toast the fennel seeds in the same way for about 2 minutes in total and pour them into a separate bowl. Then do the same with the mustard seeds, but for only 1 minute, placing them again in another bowl.
Grind coriander seeds and curry leaves until broken down but still coarse. Grind the fennel seeds until they are a little finer than the cilantro, and grind the mustard seeds, peppercorns and salt together until fine. Combine ground spices and chilli powder and set aside.
Place your buckwheat in an ovenproof pan large enough to hold your fish comfortably. Place the pan in a preheated oven at 160°C and broil until golden – about 8 minutes. You may need to stir a few times to make sure it cooks evenly.
Place the fish fillet on a plate and rub it with a little ghee before generously coating it with the spice mixture. There should be an excess of the spice mix.
Place another frying pan over medium heat and heat the remaining ghee. Lower the fish fillet into the pan and cook on one side for about 1 minute, or until a crust forms. Flip and repeat on the other side.
Transfer your fish to the pan with the buckwheat and add the rest of the spice mix. Place the pan with the fish in the oven to roast until almost cooked through. This should take about 6-10 minutes, depending on the size of the fillet. Remove from the oven and set aside in a warm place.
While the fish is cooking, you can prepare your sauce. Add the butter, leaves and capers to a medium fry pan and heat over medium heat. Swirl the pan as the butter melts, stirring and mixing everything together so the leaves cook evenly. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, until the leaves are crispy and the butter begins to brown. Now add the lemon, stir and pour the sauce over the fish.
Serve the fish immediately, straight from the pan in which you cooked it.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with AEG.