Monkfish curry with coconut, lime and curry leaves

Monkfish curry with coconut, lime and curry leaves

My Favourite Ingredients
Jason Lowe

I like making curries. I find it interesting and fun to build and balance the flavours – sweet, sour, salty, pungent, hot and, above all, clean and pure. Fresh curry leaves lend the most wonderful taste – just the smell of them transports me somewhere hot and exciting. Monkfish is a good choice of fish for curries and wet dishes – its firm, white, meaty flesh is a clean foil for more complex flavours.


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or ghee
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
bunch coriander, roots and stems finely chopped, leaves reserved
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 red chillies, chopped, (seeds left in)
6 fresh curry leaves
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar or caster sugar
2 x 340g jars (or tinned) good-quality peeled plum tomatoes
800g monkfish fillet
400ml tin coconut milk
lime wedges, to serve


  1. Place a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the butter and, once it begins to melt, add the sliced onions. Cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the mustard, fennel and coriander seeds in a dry non-stick frying pan over a medium heat until the spices begin to pop and release their aroma. Be careful not to burn them or they will make the curry taste bitter. Remove from the heat and, while still warm, pound to a rough powder using a pestle and mortar.
  3. Add the ground spices to the cooked, sweet onions along with the chopped coriander root and stems, garlic, chillies and curry leaves. Crush the kaffir lime leaves between your fingers to help release their flavour and add to the pan. Cook for a further 5–6 minutes... your kitchen will smell deliciously fragrant.
  4. Add the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar, stir once or twice and turn up the heat slightly. Add the tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Now taste the curry base. The flavour should be warm, slightly sweet, but also sour – the spices should give a deep satisfying base note flavour, the coriander will give it a clean light finish. Pause and consider whether all those flavours are apparent. If not, add a little more lime juice perhaps, or a little more fish sauce to underpin the flavours with a saltiness if needed. This curry base will sit happily for a day or so in the fridge, if you would like to make it ahead.
  6. To finish, warm the curry over a medium heat. Using a sharp knife, slice the monkfish into 2.5cm pieces (it will shrink slightly during cooking). When the curry is simmering, pour in the coconut milk, stir, then add the monkfish. Cook for 3–4 minutes until the fish is just cooked – it will feel firm to the touch.
  7. Scatter over the reserved coriander leaves, ladle into bowls and serve with lime wedges and plain rice or, as I do, with grilled flat bread laced with toasted fennel seeds.
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