Braised Fish with Saffron and Yogurt (Punjab)

Saffron (Photo by Franz Jachim/flickr)

Serves 4-6.


750 g/11/2 lb thick fish fillets
lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
oil for frying
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
2 or 3 fresh red chillies, seeded
2 tablespoons blanched almonds
1 tablespoon white poppy seeds (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
small pinch ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands
125 ml/4 fl oz/1/2 cup yogurt
salt to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander


Wash and dry fish, cut into large serving pieces and rub with lemon juice, salt, pepper and turmeric. Heat oil in a frying pan for shallow frying and on high heat brown the fish quickly on both sides. Lift out onto a plate. In the same oil fry finely sliced onion until golden brown, remove and set aside. Put roughly chopped onion, garlic, ginger, chillies, almonds and poppy seeds into an electric blender and puree. Add a little water if needed to facilitate blending. Add ground spices and blend once again, briefly.

Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons oil from pan and fry the blended mixture until it changes color and gives out a pleasing aroma. Stir constantly so that the mixture does not stick to pan and burn. Add 1/4 cup water to blender container and swirl out any remaining spice mixture. Add to pan.

Toast saffron strands in a dry pan for a minute, turn onto a saucer and crush with the back of a spoon. Dissolve in 2 tablespoons boiling water and add to pan. Add yogurt, stir and simmer gently for a few minutes, then add fish pieces, turning them carefully in the sauce. Add salt to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes, sprinkle with coriander and serve hot with rice.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)