Friday Feast: Spiced Keralan sea bass with crab from Moti Mahal

This healthy and flavour-packed fish dish looks impressive but is surprisingly simple to make. A neighbour’s grandmother cooked this dish for chef Anirudh Arora when he was growing up in South India and it’s now on his menu at Moti Mahal. You can buy banana leaves at some ethnic food shops and markets and, in London, at the New Loon Moon and Loon Fung supermarkets in Chinatown.

Keralan sea bass with masala crab

Ingredients: 2 sea bass fillets (skin on); 150g crab meat; 100g shallots; 1 tsp red chilli powder; 1 tsp garam masala; chopped green chillies (to taste); small bunch of coriander, chopped; juice of 2 lemons; 5 curry leaves; 150g chopped tomatoes; an inch of ginger, grated; 50ml tamarind pulp; 50g grated coconut; one banana leaf.

1) Slice the shallots and warm a tablespoon of oil in a pan. Gently fry the shallots and curry leaves until the shallots are soft and translucent.
2) Add the garam masala, red chilli powder and chopped tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes break down and become pulpy.
3) Add the coconut, crab and tamarind. Mix well. Remove from heat.
4) Add coriander, ginger and green chillies. Keep aside and cool.
5) Rub the fish with some salt and chilli powder. Spoon a thin layer of the crab mix on to the skin side of the fillet and wrap in the banana leaf. Cook on a griddle on both sides for 4-5 minutes on a slow flame.

If you can’t find banana leaves, you could pan-fry the fish and spoon over the crab mix as a sauce. Serve with fragrant rice and don’t forget to buy poppadoms and your favourite pickles or chutneys. Why not serve a spiced ginger Mojito as a pre-dinner drink? Exotic and delicious!