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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

My key ingredient: carom (ajwain) 

Carom is considered a natural medicine, and it helps to optimise digestion, boosts respiratory health, supports weight-loss efforts and is thought to have a visible effect on hair quality

Chef Abdul Sattar
Chef Abdul Sattar

Although the seed-like fruit of the nutritious ajwain herb can be consumed raw, dry-roasting it or cooking it in ghee gives it a rich, complex aroma. Carom is considered a natural medicine, and it helps to optimise digestion, boosts respiratory health, supports weight-loss efforts and is thought to have a visible effect on hair quality. Abdul Sattar Ali Saha, originally from West Bengal, India, has worked for the Taj group and Krishna Oberoi in the past and currently heads culinary operations at India Palace in Dubai. The chef, who specialises in Mughal and Awadhi cuisine, says of his favourite ingredient: “Ajwain is one of those rare spices that fulfils the twin purpose of adding flavour and being good for health. It is a versatile household herb, every part of which has a strong scent, called ugragandha in Sanskrit. The seeds have a pungent flavour and a strong aromatic essence and they are often added to curries and pickles.”

Ambarsari fish fry

Chef Abdul says: “The secret to the Ambarsari fish fry lies in a handful of distinct ingredients such as ajwain and besan (gram flour).

“The spicy and fried delicacy is a must-have when you’re in Amritsar or in Pakistan, where it’s known as Lahori fish. When cooking it at home, try to use freshly ground masalas and remember to serve it with green chutney.”

Ingredients

4 pieces flat-cut fish

1tbsp ginger, chopped

1tbsp garlic, chopped

2 green chillies, chopped

Pinch of Deggi mirch (a blend of red peppers and Kashmiri red chillies), plus extra as per taste for the batter

1tbsp turmeric powder, plus extra as per taste for the batter

1tbsp ajwain

Juice of 1 lemon

1 cup besan (gram flour)

2tbsp rice flour

Small bunch of mint and coriander leaves, finely chopped

Salt, to taste

A sprinkle of chaat masala

Lemon wedges, coriander and radish juliennes, to garnish

Mint-yoghurt chutney, to dip

Method

Marinate the fish in the ginger, garlic, green chillies, Deggi mirch, turmeric powder, ajwain and lemon. Let it rest and soak up the spices for an hour.

In a big bowl, mix the besan, rice flour, chopped mint and coriander leaves, and salt, turmeric and Deggi mirch, and enough water to make a smooth batter.

Gently dip the pieces of marinated fish in the batter and fry in medium-hot oil until crisp.

Serving suggestion

Plate the pieces of fish and sprinkle with chat masala, and serve with mint-yoghurt chutney, lemon wedges, coriander sprigs and radish juliennes. Serve hot.

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