Coconut and turmeric fish soup
This fantastically tasty fish soup hails from Sri Lanka and the southern coastal regions of India. When I first tasted it,
I found it very difficult to identify the source of its striking richness.
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp raw cashews
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2in (5cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 fresh red Thai chilies, seeded and finely chopped, plus extra, cut into slivers, for garnish (optional)
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, leaves and stems finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
3½ cups good-quality fish stock
1¼ cups canned unsweetened coconut cream or coconut milk
2 tsp dark brown sugar juice of 2 limes
1lb (450g) baby squid, cleaned
1lb (450g) uncooked large prawns, peeled, deveined, and halved lengthwise
1lb (450g) firm white fish, cut into bite-size chunks
salt and freshly ground black pepper
The nuts are lightly roasted, then ground into a paste with chopped coriander stems. I have
since learned that this technique is frequently used to enrich soups, stews, and curries for special occasions.
Meanwhile, crush the fennel seed and coriander seed using a pestle and mortar. When the onion is soft, add the fennel and coriander seeds and the
turmeric. Cook for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add half of the cashew paste. Pour in the fish stock and coconut cream, then add the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the lime juice and remaining nut paste. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should have a balance of sweet richness and acidity.
While the soup base is simmering, slit open the squid and, using a small sharp knife, carefully score the outside in a crisscross pattern. Cut the squid
into bite-size pieces. Put in a bowl with the prawns and fish. Season well with salt and pepper. Add to the soup, and simmer for 3 minutes or until the prawns turn pink and the squid is opaque. Stir in half of the cilantro leaves. Serve at once in
small bowls garnished with the remaining cilantro leaves and red chilies (if using).