We have so many preconceptions about what makes food taste good. One is that curry needs to contain lots of onions, garlic and chilli to taste authentic. In fact there are many superb tasting authentic ‘curry’ dishes that rely on an interesting synergy of gentler flavours. These include turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime and coconut.
Onions, you will remember, contain a lot of fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPS) which can cause painful gas and bloating in some people with IBS.
Chilli is low in FODMAPs but it does contain capsaisin which is a gut irritant for some people so it is best to limit this in the dishes you cook. But in truth a well flavoured curry does not need chilli if there are other flavours to compensate.
Malaysian curry dishes tend to be milder than Indian ones because they contain less chilli and different mix of gentler spices. So I set about recreating a milder tasting fish curry (you could substitute chicken) using easily available ingredients but without the use of onions or chilli. Just to see if it could be achieved.
Garlic oil and the green tops of young leeks provide a very good savoury base to a ‘curry’ like sauce and they are both low in FODMAPS.
To this base I added grated fresh ginger and a generous mix of freshly ground cumin, coriander and turmeric. If you have lemongrass, chop it up very finely at this point and throw it into the sauce together with a couple of kaffir lime leaves if you have them. I keep my fresh kaffir lime leaves in the freezer.
Cherry tomatoes add moisture, texture, sweetness and colour to the sauce which is finished with a small can of coconut milk let down with a splash of water then seasoned well with salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice before adding fish, prawns or chicken to cook through.
I loved this recipe and it proved my point that a delicate, spicy dish can taste great without using onions or chilli.
Fish curry with coconut, lemongrass and kaffir lime
- A drizzle of vegetable oil – about 2 tbsp
- 1 clove of garlic, sliced
- green parts of 4 young leeks/ or spring onions, finely chopped
- 1/4 red pepper, deseeded and very finely sliced
- 2 tsp whole coriander seeds, ground
- 1 tbsp whole cumin seeds, ground
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 walnut sized piece of fresh ginger peeled and finely grated
- 10 cherry tomatoes, roughly cut into quarters
- 2 kaffir lime leaves*
- 1 stick of lemongrass, very finely chopped*
- 165 mls coconut milk (a small can)
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
- a dash of fish sauce (optional)
- salt and pepper
- 400g white fish, cut into small chunks or a mix of white fish and prawns (or chicken breast can be substituted for fish)
- 1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
*if you do not have lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves you can leave them out. The curry will still taste good.
Drizzle the vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan and gently fry the garlic slices until they begin to brown and then discard. Add the chopped green leek leaves to the garlic flavoured oil and sweat these until they are soft but not discoloured.
Add the ground coriander, cumin and turmeric and ginger to the pan and cook gently for a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and the lemongrass, if using followed by the coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves .
Mix the ingredients together well and allow to simmer gently for about 10 minutes (during which time you can cook some Basmati rice which takes about 12 minutes to cook).
Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning by adding a little lemon juice, pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Add a splash of fish sauce too if you want to add more flavour to the curry. If your curry needs a little more liquid add a little water. You are then ready to add fish or chicken to the sauce.
If using fish or prawns allow 6-8 minutes to cook at a simmer. Chicken will take about 12 minutes and make sure the simmer is lively as chicken needs to be cooked well for it to be safe to eat.
Serve your curry with rice, strewn with a little chopped coriander and spices to decorate the rice.
If you would like more information about managing your sensitive gut see The IBS Network