Ask any self-respecting Goan what they would like as their last meal,and the answer will most likely be the nation´s favourite,– Xitt Codi,their famous fish curry. Whether Hindu, Catholic or Muslim, every Goan’s favourite meal is the humble Xitt Codi (pronounced as “sheath” and “co-dee”). Literally translated it means rice curry. And when we talk about curry in this context, we specifically mean fish curry, the ubiquitous bright orange curry lapped up across Goan homes and the rest of the world.This deliciously tangy curry is always cooked in larger quantities so that there’s always some left over because, as we all know, it tastes better the next day and the day after.In fact, the Goans love their fish curry so much that while having it for lunch, they are already dreaming of mopping it up with yesterday´s bread for breakfast the next morning. And they usually squabble over who gets dibs in on the “kaalchi codi” (yesterday’s curry).The Goan identity is rooted, among other things, in deep enjoyment of food and drink. A nostalgic Goan usually ends up reminiscing about the taste of their grandmothers' sorpotel (A spicy pork recipe which rightfully has its own fan base and most of the time is the centre of meal-time conversation in any Goan celebration).The pork vindaloo is also said to have been originated by the Portuguese, and Goa carries on the tradition. The Goan cuisine is an interesting mix of varied influences and is undoubtedly one of the most evolved cuisines of India. There are two separate traditions in Goan cuisine influenced by the respective religions of Hinduism and Christianity. Though the recipes and techniques are different, there are some points where they come together to produce culinary wonders.Xitt Codi is to be the focal point of the Goan wedding buffet we catered yesterday.Back in the spring when the wedding couple-to-be visited for a tasting menu of the buffet, the bride- to-be found the masala* a touch too grainy.The recipe I used stated grated coconut or fine coconut cream powder.In hindsight I think my dessicated coconut was not finely ground enough ( like granulated sugar vs.caster sugar), so for my next attempt I used a coconut cream concentrate,this produced the smoother more palatable and creamy result that was required.I am really looking forward to my “kaalchi codi” (yesterday’s curry)tonight.
My version of Xitt Codi - Goan Fish Curry
500g firm white fish ( monkfish, cod, hake, perch or tilapia) cut into chunks
if you can get it pomfret is the best
pinch of salt and turmeric
50g tamarind pulp
100ml water ( hot )
Oil as required
1 medium onion thinly sliced
2.5cm piece root ginger, finely shredded
2 green chillies, finely shredded
500-600ml water or stock
2-3 Cokum or sour plums (if available )
FOR THE MASALA
8-10 red chillies ( select larger varieties with depth of colour )
1 level tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
6-8 thin slices of garlic
3cm piece root ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
250g coconut cream concentrate
Clean the fish,wash and drain. Sprinkle with salt and a pinch of turmeric. Set aside.
Grind the masala ingredients with water in the blender until fine and smooth.Add water a little at a time and ensure that it does not become too runny but looks like a thick paste.
Soak the tamarind in the hot water for 1 hour, then pass through a strainer. Retain the pulp.
Take a heavy-bottomed casserole pan and add just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
Heat the pan and when the oil forms a haze add the onion,ginger and green chilli.
Sauté for a while, but do not brown, and then add in the puréed masala. Sauté until the oil begins to escape from the sides again.Stir regularly to prevent sticking.The oil leaving signals the fact that the masala is cooked and absorbed. Blend the water or stock with the coconut concentrate and add to the masala allowing it to simmer.At this stage add the tamarind pulp and cokums if using.
Boil gently for 5 minutes or so and check the seasoning.Check the consistency and ensure it is not too thin, more like a pouring sauce. If needs be cook for a little while until you achieve the right consistency.
Now put the fish in and continue simmering without stirring for 2-4 minutes on a medium flame and bring gently to the boil.Turn off the heat,cover the pan and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes to allow the fish to cook well in the curry.
if the fish is allowed to cook in the heat of the curry it tends to get a perfect texture and will not break up.
* What is a masala?
a masala is a combination of spices,condiments and herbs, puréed,blended or mixed together to form a basis for any preparation. In short if you were to mix two or three ingredients such as ginger, garlic chillies and cumin it would become a masala.if there is no specific recipe or methodology to follow and the blend is entirely your own,you have created your own masala.In indian cooking therecare several different kinds of masalas for several different gravies, curries and other items.
If you were to say the word `masaledar´it would mean full of masala.In this case a preaparation might have all fresh ingredients such as green chillies,coriander,ginger,garlic and maybe cumin and other whole spices such as cinnamon,cardamom and cloves.In India,surprise surprise, a chicken tikka masala does not exist as it is seenand know in the curry houses of the West.If a native was asked to cook a chicken tikka masala,he would cook it with a masala exactly like I have just mentioned,dry and tasty,but with the inclusion of chopped tomatoes and some garam masala.
This curry masala can also be used for the following curries -
Chicken or pork (you will have to sauté or the meat separately then add it to the masala.
Cauliflower and tomato combination with baby potatoes
This particular masala is not suitable for red meats