I’ve just returned from a short business trip to Bombay in India. There wasn’t time for any specific food research, but I did enjoy the food immensely and even tried Indian wine for the first time (which was unexpectedly good). I posted photos of the food and wine I enjoyed in India on the Facebook page of Stefan’s Gourmet Blog (if you haven’t do so yet, please “like” it to see updates in your newsfeed).
I didn’t even have time to write down the names of all the dishes I tried, but there is one particular dish that I liked a lot that I tried during the final dinner before heading to the airport. It was Shahi Salmon, succulent salmon smothered in a tomato gravy, served as a side dish. I am not used to serving fish as a side dish, but it made sense as the creamy mild salmon was a great way to ‘cool down’ from the spicier food on the table. I asked the waiter about the dish, and he said it was tomatoes with ghee, fenugreek, and fennel. That sounded simple enough to try making it myself without knowing anything about Indian cuisine.
Back home I started to google and found out that this type of dish is also indicated as “korma”, and indicates anything braised in a creamy sauce where the creaminess comes from yogurt, cream, or nut paste. It is usually mild, but spicy versions exist, too. Shahi means “royal”, indicating that it is not an every day dish but instead for a special occasion. There are countless recipes, most with many more ingredients, but I decided to keep it simple and stick mostly to what the waiter told me. The result was very similar to what I’d had the other day in Mombay. I think it would have been even closer if I had used cream instead of yogurt, but the yogurt did work very well as it provided a bit of freshness. This is a very simple but tasty dish, so give it a try.
For 4 servings as a main course
600 grams (1.3 lbs) fresh salmon fillet, skin off
1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
400 grams (14 oz) chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
100 grams (scant 1/2 cup) yogurt (I used Icelandic skyr as that was what I had in my refrigerator), or cream
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp fenugreek seed
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
4 Tbsp ghee (Indian clarified butter, substitute with regular butter), plus 2 more if using yogurt
cream and fresh cilantro, for garnish
Cut 600 grams of salmon into serving pieces and season on all sides with 1 1/2 tsp of salt. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours (but at least 45 minutes) to allow the salt to penetrate the salmon. This doesn’t only season it, but firms up the salmon and helps to keep it juicy.
Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee in a frying pan and add a chopped onion. Season with salt.
Add 2 teaspoons of fennel seed and 1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds.
Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the onions are golden but not brown, about 10 minutes.
Add 400 grams of chopped tomatoes.
Stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Season to taste with cayenne pepper, remembering that this is supposed to be mild (I used 1/8 teaspoon).
Simmer over low heat until the sauce has thickened and the tomatoes have become sweet, about 20 minutes.
Transfer the tomato mixture to a strong blender.
Blend on high speed until completely smooth. (If your blender is not as strong, use a foodmill after blending to make sure the sauce is smooth.)
Clean the pan and return the smooth tomato mixture to the pan. Add 100 grams of yogurt (or cream).
If using yogurt, whisk in 2 tablespoons of ghee. Warm up the tomato gravy over low heat, but do not allow it to boil as the yogurt may curdle. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.
Pat the salmon dry with paper towels.
Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee in a non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the salmon pieces…
…and brown on all sides over high heat.
Add the salmon to the tomato gravy.
Stir gently to coat the salmon with the gravy on all sides, then turn off the heat. Cover and allow the heat of the gravy to cook the salmon through, about 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the salmon pieces. The salmon should be just cooked through so that it will remain succulent instead of drying out.
Serve the salmon covered in tomato gravy. Garnish with drizzled cream and cilantro. (Because I wanted to give my stomach some rest after eating spicy food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for three days in a row, I served the salmon as a main dish with a side of roasted pumpkin and lentils, dressed with some melted ghee.)
A royal dish like this should be paired with a royal wine. In Bombay we had a Viognier from Indian with it, and this inspired me to try it with a Condrieu (the best Viognier in the world). That turned out to work very well. Read more about Condrieu here.
Domain du Chêne Condrieu 2015, price at the winery 27 euros
- 100% viognier from granite soils, aged for 10 months, 30% in new oak barrels and 70% in stainless steel, 14.5% ABV
- Color: golden
- Nose: aromatic with apricots and flowers
- Taste: creamy, rich, mineral, low acidity, complex
- Conclusion: very good, ****
It worked very well with the dish, as the combination brought out some additional complexity. Wine pairing ****. In terms of the flavor factors it is clear that this is a case of harmony:
- Mouthfeel: both wine and dish are creamy
- Flavor intensity: the wine is full-bodied, but the dish has no problem to match the intensity despite its mildness
- Type of flavor: both mostly ripe with some fresh tones (from the yogurt)
- Complexity: both are medium complex
What many of us know as ‘Mexican food’, is actually Tex-Mex or another Americanized version of Mexican food. And so I was very excited when I was invited to a party of my new Mexican friend Alain, for which he promised to cook authentic Mexican food. The feast he prepared for us included chicken with chipotle and mushrooms. I asked him for the recipe of the last dish, which we really liked.