It sounds odd, and perhaps the product of me taking my love of fruit in savoury dishes to an extreme, but this combination of fish and mango really works. It's not that surprising, actually, as I have long been a fan of mango salsa with swordfish or tuna. I have to admit I was sceptical when I saw Delia's recipe for a Thai fish and mango curry, but I was so intrigued I had to have a go myself. I was rewarded with the second-best homemade curry I have ever eaten, and something I can't wait to try again.
The base for this is a rather unexciting looking but intensely flavoursome curry paste. I absolutely love making curry paste, despite the ineptitude of my blender. It always comes out a bit more rustic and chunky than I'd like, but all the flavour is there and I don't really mind little bits of lemongrass in my dinner. There is something pleasingly anticipation-inducing about putting a load of ingredients in the blender; I always savour that moment before I switch it on and watch them transformed into a tasty mass, perfect for simmering in some coconut milk to create a burst of fresh, intense flavour.
I also paid a visit to the Chinese supermarket in Oxford, which I've been meaning to visit for approximately four years. Finally I managed to procure a jar of shrimp paste, one of those crucial ingredients in Thai dishes that has proven so elusive in your average supermarket. I guess most people are too lazy to make their own curry paste. I also got some coconut milk. I discovered a couple of months ago that apparently we're in the midst of a worldwide coconut milk shortage, because of an insect infestation in Thailand's coconut plantations. Which explains why both Tesco and Sainsburys not only had no coconut milk, they had actually filled the space where it usually is with other products. However, I make the short trip down to the Chinese supermarket, and the shelves are packed with the stuff. Clearly they have people in high places. Or should that be people in Thai places?
Into the blender, then, with ginger, lemongrass, chili, garlic, lime zest and juice, an onion, Thai fish sauce, and the shrimp paste (which has an incredibly overpowering flavour - just opening the jar made my kitchen so fishy that my friends, walking in the front door, immediately knew I was cooking fish - and that's before the actual fish had even emerged from the fridge). A few happy moments of blending later, and I had a big bowl of...well, mush. But the best-smelling mush ever; fresh and zesty and full of promise. You just don't get that from shop-bought curry paste, though I accept not everyone can be bothered to make their own. It really is worth it though, if only for the satisfaction of pressing that blender button.
There's not much else to say, this recipe is that simple. I brought the coconut milk to the boil, evaporated some of the water to thicken it, then added the curry paste along with some raw peeled prawns and some cubed coley fillets (Delia suggested cod, but coley is environmentally more sound and also cheaper - if neither of these things are important to you, use monkfish or swordfish). Once the fish was cooked, I stirred in some chopped mango, a lot of fresh coriander, and served it over rice and stir-fried pak choi (an impulse purchase from the Chinese supermarket) with some lime wedges to squeeze over.
Often I find when I make my own Thai curries that they're just not fresh-tasting and zesty enough for my liking. This one is perfect; the curry paste blend is just right and delivers masses of flavour. You can almost taste each individual element. Add to that the creaminess of the coconut milk, and it's just a perfect combination of sweet coconut, rich earthiness from the shrimp paste, saltiness from the fish sauce, and sharpness from the ginger and lime. The mango somehow works perfectly; I think it's because its sweetness stops the curry paste ingredients from cloying too much, and texturally it's a great match for the crunchy prawns and the soft fish. I thought mango and white fish would have been just wrong, but actually the fish absorbs so much flavour from the curry sauce that the mango is the perfect addition. The coriander on top just brings everything together. I can't wait to make this again.
Thai fish curry with mango (serves 6):
900g white fish fillets, cubed (I used coley because it is cheaper and more sustainable than cod)
One bag of peeled, raw prawns (frozen are fine)
2 tins half-fat coconut milk (if you can get it!)
A large bunch of coriander, finely chopped
One large mango, finely cubed
1 red chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and quartered
Grated zest of 2 limes and juice of 1
2 stems lemongrass, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp shrimp paste
2-3 tbsp Thai fish sauce
Bring the coconut milk to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes to thicken.
Blitz all the ingredients for the curry paste in a blender. When the coconut milk is ready, add the paste to it and stir. Add the fish and prawns until cooked through, then stir in the mango and coriander.
Serve over boiled rice, with some stir-fried greens if you like.
(Adapted from Delia Smith's How to Cook)