Let me start by saying that I’d originally planned to make a fish curry for lunch today. Something fragrant, with curry leaves, and maybe even some tamarind. So I went to the store in search of fish steaks. Once I got there, though, I saw some beautiful Scottish salmon that just called out to me. It seemed criminal to put salmon in a curry, so I baked it instead.
This recipe has a gentle heat, from the green chillies and mustard, mellowed with yoghurt. Although neither salmon nor sea bream are particularly “Bengali” (they eat river fish more often), the flavours are.
It comes together quickly, and the only tricky bit is figuring out how long to cook the fish. It’s always hard to give baking times that will work across situations – it depends on how hot your oven runs, how thick the fish is, and (particularly with the salmon) how you like it cooked. I usually give salmon 7-10 minutes per thumb-width (2 cm) in a 200 °C oven; you could call this my personal rule of thumb (har har). Today’s salmon was about 4 cm thick, and took 15 minutes to cook. I also got some sea bream, about 2 cm thick, which took 10 minutes to cook
Make the yoghurt mixture a little hotter than you’d like the eventual dish to taste, to allow for some mellowing as it cooks. I add 1 tsp of mustard per fillet of fish, you can lower this if you’d like it less “hot”.
I’ve seen various versions of this recipe floating around on the interwebs, but haven’t found one source to attribute it to. It’s often called “Bengali salmon parcels”. I’ve tweaked measurements, spices and cooking times after a few trials.
Sea Bream & Salmon Fillets, Baked in a Spicy Mustard Sauce
4 fish fillets, scaled and cleaned
4 cloves of garlic
4 cm piece of root ginger
1-2 green chillies, with the seeds (dial this up or down depending on how adventurous you feel).
1 bunch coriander
2 cups of yoghurt
4 tsp English mustard
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin powder
Salt to taste
Lime slices to serve
Preheat the oven to 200 °C. Pat the fish fillets dry.
Spread the mustard on the fillets, and sprinkle the cumin powder and turmeric on the top. Season with salt.
In a hand blender grind together the ginger, garlic, most of coriander and the green chillies. (Reserve a few slices of the green chillies and some coriander for dressing the fillets before baking.) Add the yoghurt and grind again to make a paste.
Cut four sheets of aluminium foil, with enough room to make parcels for each fillet. Spread a little of the yoghurt mixture at the bottom, and place the fish on it. Cover with more of the mixture and top with a few slices of the green chillies and the coriander.
Fold the parcels, leaving some room for air to circulate inside.
Place in the oven, and cook for around 10 min (see headnotes for suggestions on cooking time).
Serve with a few wedges of lime. These go well with a bowl of steaming basmati rice, accompanied by some dal.