With or without you, coriander…

SUBTLE, AROMATIC AND VERY MOREISH…This Goan fish curry is for those people who think they don’t like fish curries.

Did you know that some people are genetically disposed to dislike coriander? It’s true.

A gene was discovered – OR6A2 – which scientists reckon contributes to certain people perceiving a soapy smell from the herb.


Thankfully, I’m not one of those people, though I think Herself is.

“Can I have mine without coriander?” is a regular request at home.

This used to be the case with a lot of things…

“Can I have mine without lemon?”

“Can I have mine without anchovies?”

“Can I have mine without flavour?”


And in most cases, through perseverance on both our parts, the list of non-ingredients on Herself’s list becomes ever smaller. I can now sneak lemon, anchovies and plenty of flavour into most things without an eventual complaint.


And yet, I’m also thinking I’m fighting a losing battle with the coriander. I’ve tried and tried but even I have to admit, if you’re genetically predisposed to something, all the exposure and practise in the world isn’t going to make one iota of difference.

The circumnavigation of this problem though, lies in the quantities of coriander being used and whether it’s fresh or dried.

I know, for example, that fresh coriander is “the devil’s weed.” But, if I sneak a half teaspoon of ground coriander into a curry, I’ll more often than not get away with it.

So it is with Goan fish curry. I’ve never been to Goa but I know that the doses of coriander used in such mighty dishes far outstrips those which I can expect to use. More’s the pity. Still, half a teaspoon is better than none.

This recipe is for those people who think they don’t like fish curries. It’s subtle, aromatic and very moreish. I actually made it last Sunday night and though not as coriander-y as I might have liked, it was lethal stuff nonetheless.

1 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 tsp of mustard seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, halved (leave the seeds in if you want extra heat)
3/4 cloves of garlic, peeled
knob of fresh ginger, thumb-sized – peeled
2 dried red chillies
1 tsp of ground cumin
1tsp of turmeric
half a tsp of coriander (2 tsps if you don’t have a coriander hater in the house)
2 tsps of garam masala
tin of tomatoes
tsp of sugar
tin of coconut milk
500g of firm white fish (haddock, cod, pollock etc) cut into large chunks. I used cod.
salt and pepper
squeeze of lime
rice or nans to serve
chopped fresh coriander (optional)

Start by adding the oil and mustard seeds to a frying pan or large non-stick pan. When the seeds start to pop, add the onion. Turn the heat down and sweat the onion until soft, without colouring – about ten minutes.

As that’s happening, blitz the chillies, ginger and garlic with a dash of water with a hand blender until smooth.

When the onions are soft, add the dried spices and fry it off for about two minutes.

Next add the blended paste and fry off for at least another two minutes. Keep an eye on it and if it starts catching on the bottom of the pan, add a dash of water.

Add the tin of tomatoes and the pinch of sugar and bring to a simmer and then reduce, until most of the liquid is gone – about five or six minutes.

Add the coconut milk, bring to a simmer, and then add the chunks of fish. Let it simmer away, for about five minutes until the fish is cooked through and then squeeze in a blast of lime, taste the seasoning and it’s done.

Depending on how tart things are, I might be tempted to add another pinch of sugar, but I’ll leave that to you. Serve with hot rice or a nan and – if you’re allowed – some chopped fresh coriander.

As they say in Goa, quare tackle.

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