Heirloom Tomato Fish Curry

We came home from the farmers’ market on a hot summer day, with a take including a bunch of heirloom tomatoes, hot peppers, and fresh flounder, among other things, not knowing exactly what we were going to have for dinner other than it would probably involve fresh fish and veggies. As we contemplated our options, we realized we were pretty much out of wine, and we didn’t want to go back out into the heat to buy more, so whatever we made for dinner was going to have to pair with beer instead. That meant we were going to do something spicy.

Partial farmers’ market take

I started searching the internet for spicy fish recipes and came across a few for fish curry. I was already thinking Indian since I had some green chilis I wanted to use, so that sounded perfect. Most of the recipes I came across involved a few ingredients we didn’t have, so I ended up synthesizing 3 or 4 different recipes with my pre-existing memories of making curry, based on both what we had available in our pantry and also accounting for some of our personal tastes (for example, Tom doesn’t like cilantro, and I’m not a fan of coconut milk).


  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds*
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 tsp nigella seeds**
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tsp fresh garlic paste (or grated on microplane)***
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger paste (or grated on microplane)***
  • 1 tsp ground coriander*
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 filets fresh flounder (about 1 lb total)
  • 1 tbsp cashew powder (smashed whole cashews in mortar & pestle)
  • a few squirts of lemon juice

* Due to an anomaly in my spice cabinet I had to do a swap, using whole coriander seeds instead of ground, and ground cumin instead of whole. But I would have preferred to do it the way it is listed here.

** I normally wouldn’t have thought to add the nigella seeds, but since it is aka “black cumin” and I found it it the back of my pantry with the fenugreek, I thought it might help make up for the fact that I was out of regular cumin seeds. It turned out to be a great addition, but it could certainly be skipped if you don’t have it around

*** I highly recommend keeping around a jar each of garlic paste and ginger paste (or minced). That way you don’t have to run to the store for fresh ginger when you only need a teaspoon or so, especially since ginger root doesn’t always keep so well.

In a large, deep skillet I heated 1 tbsp ghee at medium heat, then added the whole spices (cumin, mustard, fenugreek, nigella) and cooked those until the seeds popped and/or softened. I added the onions and cooked these until they started to brown.

Once the onions were cooked, I added the ginger and garlic, followed by the ground spices (coriander, chili, turmeric). After all the flavors were absorbed but before they started burning, I added the chopped tomatoes, then 1 cup of water. I let this mixture simmer for about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes had broken down and it had formed a nice sauce.

At this point I added the fish filets and spooned some liquid over them so that they were nearly covered. I turned the heat to medium-low, enough to maintain a good simmer but not boiling. I let that cook about 15 minutes – the cook time may vary based on the thickness of the fish.

Once the fish was fully cooked, I removed the filets to a serving plate. With the remaining sauce, I added 1 tbsp of powder from smashing cashews in a mortar and pestle, as well as a few squirts of lemon juice. I spooned the thickened sauce over the fish filets.

I was really pleased with how this curry turned out – it would be lovely with potatoes and/or some other veggies, beans, or meats, but I do think it was perfect for fish. The longer it sat, the more the spices  started to express themselves. You can serve with naan and/or rice. We also had some spicy green beans on the side.

If you follow our blog, you won’t be surprised what we did with the leftover sauce the next morning…

Yep, we baked eggs in the leftover curry sauce, shakshuka-style, and mopped it up with some crusty bread.

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