Food Origins: Indian Spices

While the Indian spice trade has been an important part of the subcontinent’s economy for hundreds of years, spices have been used for thousands of years. In a time before modern refrigeration, spices were a necessity for survival. During the Middle Ages, black pepper — something now commonplace in kitchens around the world — was so highly sought after that it commanded selling prices that rivalled those of gold. Throughout history, Indian spices have been highly valued, not only for the flavour and colour they add, but also for their antimicrobial properties which enable them to preserve meat, including fish.

Monkfish, known as “goosefish” in the United States, is a popular type of fish in the United Kingdom. Typically, the tail portion of the fish is used in cuisine, and some compare the taste to that of lobster tail. This recipe celebrates the rich history of the United Kingdom and the Indian subcontinent by combining the flavour of this fish native to the British Isles, along with potatoes, with the unique tastes of saffron, garam masala, and other well-known spices from India.

To add another dimension of flavour to this dish, we include a broth of coconut and mussels. Mussels are high in protein and low in fat. Peak season for mussels in the UK is from October until March. When selecting live mussels, be sure to look for ones with closed shells that are free of damaged or chipped areas.

Indian-Spiced Monkfish with Saffron Potatoes and Coconut Mussel Broth

Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 25-35 minutes


  • 160 g (6 oz) piece of monkfish (Ask your fishmonger to cut and double skin for you.)
  • 5 g (1/4 oz) garam masala
  • 5 g (1/4 oz) turmeric
  • 5 g (1/4 oz) ground coriander
  • 5 g (1/4 oz) ground cumin
  • 2 crushed cardamom seeds
  • 5 g (1/4 oz) saffron (If you can’t find saffron, use extra turmeric.)
  • 1 tin full-fat coconut milk
  • 10 g (1/2 oz) plain flour
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large potato cut into large dice
  • ½ bunch chopped coriander
  • 20 g (1 oz) butter
  • 6 cooked mussels in their shells (If you can’t find live mussels, use 7-8 pieces of mussel meat.)
  • Salt/Pepper/Oil


  • Mix garam masala, turmeric, ground coriander, and cumin together. Add half of this mix to flour.
  • Pat dry monkfish and lightly dust with spice and flour mix.
  • Heat teaspoon of oil in pan and brown fish on all sides, making sure that fish is still raw in middle.
  • Remove from pan and place on tray ready for oven.
  • Place diced potatoes into pan with crushed cardamom.
  • Place saffron into warm water. (If you wish, you can use chicken stock instead of water.) Once saffron colour is released, place on top of potatoes and cook until potatoes are soft, making sure they don’t turn to mash. Drain and keep warm.
  • Place butter into heavy pan. Melt and add chopped onion. Slowly fry without colour, and add rest of spices. Keep stirring for 2-3 minutes. Then, add coconut milk and reduce slowly, making sure it doesn’t boil to prevent splitting.
  • Place monkish in oven at 220 C (430 F) for 6-10 minutes.
  • Once sauce has reduced by half, add half of chopped coriander and other half to potatoes.
  • Remove fish from oven and leave to rest.
  • Add mussels to sauce.
  • Place potatoes in centre of warm plate, topped off with monkfish, and finish with coconut cream sauce. Don’t forget to use all mussels.

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