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With coconuts to start the Spring

This week I have invited Preti, the daughter of Meera Taneja, to share one of her mother’s fish curry dishes together with a fabulous coconut chutney. Both recipes are from Southern India.


I know that my aunt, Beryl, who was very fond of curries, (and I have great memories of the aromas coming from pans on the back of her Rayburn in her kitchen in Cornwall) would have relished this fare. Beryl includes a number of chutney recipes for serving with curries in Lets Preserve It . Sadly recipes such as the following fish dish from Meera and the coconut chutney were not to be found in our old family cookbooks.

Meera Taneja was a pioneering food writer and chef. She was instrumental in popularizing Indian cookery and cuisine in the UK from the 1980s onwards. She is the author of eight books on Indian cookery and presented several cookery programmes for UK national television.  In the 1990s Meera set up Muskaan, (smile), a small business supplying Indian and Chinese snacks to UK supermarkets. By 1999, the factory in Middlesborough employed nearly 600 staff, a majority of who were Indian women. Many had never held formal employment before.             She died in 2004, aged 57.

 Machchli ki cudhi (Fish in coconut sauce)

This recipe is from Andhara Pradesh in Southern India, and appears in Good Housekeeping’s Indian Cookery by Meera Taneja, (London: Ebury Press, 1983), p.27.

Preparation time: 40 minutes    Cooking time: 50 minutes      Serves 4

1lb firm skinless and boneless white fish such as cod or monkfish.

3 level tbsp. dessicated coconut, dissolved in 150ml warm water

2 level tsp cumin seeds

1 level tsp coriander seeds

1 green chilli, seeded

5cm/2inch piece fresh ginger, peeled

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2 level tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

4 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped

25g tamarind paste

450 ml/ 3|4 pint water

3 tbsp. light sesame oil

3 medium onions, skinned and coarsely chopped

3|4 level tsp. chilli powder

1 level tsp. salt

4 curry leaves

1|2 level tsp. garam masala


Wash the fish thoroughly and pat dry. Cut into 5 cm (2 inch) pieces and set aside.

Soak the desiccated coconut in 150 ml warm water.

Dry roast the cumin and coriander seeds to a pale golden colour and while still warm, in a blender, food processor or pestle and mortar, grind to a fine powder. (You can use ready-ground powders, but dry roasting and grinding your own gives a deeper flavour).

Strain the coconut from the water, and set aside.

Add the coconut water to the ground spices. Set aside.

Grind the green chilli and coriander leaves together. Set aside. Grind the ginger and garlic together into a paste.

 Place the chopped tomatoes and tamarind in a saucepan and add the water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes or until the tomatoes are reduced to a pulp.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onions; fry for 10 – 15 minutes to a pale golden colour. With a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to the ginger and garlic mix in the blender; grind to a fine paste.

Add the ground onion, ginger and garlic mixture to the remaining oil in the pan and fry for another few minutes.

Add the turmeric, chilli powder, salt and the ground coconut mixture. Stirring continuously, fry the mixture for 10 – 15 minutes, until it turns a rich golden colour and the oil begins to separate (add a dash of water if it begins to stick together.)

Strain the tomatoes and tamarind through a sieve. Reserve the liquid and discard the tomato skins. Pour the tamarind water into the onion mixture and add the chili and coriander paste and curry leaves. If the mixture is more a paste than a sauce, add a dash more water. Stir well and bring back to the boil. Boil rapidly for a few minutes, then reduce the heat. Simmer gently for about three minutes until the sauce begins to thicken slightly.

Add the pieces of fish and the garam masala. Stir just once, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until the fish is just tender.

 Serve piping hot garnished with lime wedges and fresh coriander, with rice and chutney.


Nariyal ki chutney (coconut chutney) 

(New Indian Cookery by Meera Taneja, p.110)

This South Indian chutney is made from fresh grated coconut mixed with natural or greek yoghurt, green chillis and garnished with mustard seeds and curry leaf. If fresh coconut is not available you can use desiccated coconut. Once mixed, this keeps well for up to three days in the fridge. Garnish near to serving time.

Preparation time: 10 minutes  Serves 4 – 6

 45 ml/ 3 tbsp. natural or greek yoghurt

1 green chili, finely chopped

50g/ 2 oz fresh coconut, coarsely grated

15 ml/ 1 tbsp. light sesame oil

1|2 tsp. yellow mustard seeds

2 – 3 curry leaves

1|2 tsp. salt


In a bowl, mix together the yoghurt, chilli and and the coconut.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add the mustard seeds. As soon as they pop, add the curry leaves and salt then almost at once, pour the garnish over the coconut chutney. It should sizzle! Mix well and chill slightly before serving.

image Recipes contributed by Preti Taneja.

Thank you to Preti for this special dish which I found quick and simple to make and with ingredients easily available. I loved the popping mustard seeds!! A great success.



  1. This Indian recipe is amazing. This Fish Curry can be had with Idli too. Idli/Idly one of the best, healthy, nutritious breakfast for all. Idly is made fro Rice and Lentils and forms Idly batter Recipe. It is fermented and then steamed to form lovely spongy 1 to 2 Diameter round balls.

    Comment by rukmani on May 25, 2017 at 2:42 pm
  2. Thank you. I look forward to trying this out.

    Comment by Philippa Cardale on September 9, 2018 at 5:48 pm

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