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Macher Jhol With Pickled Fennel
Macher Jhol With Pickled Fennel
Over 2 hours

Macher Jhol is a traditional Bengali spicy fish curry, where we see the delicous flavour pairing of mustard with seafood. A simple fish stock will work for this recipe, although I prefer to make a langoustine bisque (by roasting the shells) to add an incredible depth and flavour to the dish. Palourde clams are small and sweet but you can use any clams if you can’t obtain them. In fact, don’t worry if you can’t get hold of the exact fish used in the recipe – just use whatever is fresh and available to you. To make the mustard paste, simply grind your black mustard seeds with enough water, until you get a paste-like consistency.

Extracted From Kricket: An Indian-Inspired Cookbook By WillBowlby (Hardie Grant, £26) Photography: Hugh Johnson

Recipe courtesy of
  • 4 x 80 g (3 oz) hake fillets
  • 4 x 80 g (3 oz) red mullet fillets
  • 8 langoustines, cut in half lengthways and intestinal vein removed
  • 320 g (11 oz) Palourde clams, cleaned
  • 100 ml (3½ fl oz/scant ½ cup) dry white wine
  • a handful of coriander (cilantro) cress, to garnish

For the Pickled Fennel

  • 1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz/scant 1 cup) Pickling Liquor (see below)

For the sauce

  • 200 ml (7 fl oz/scant 1 cup) mustard oil
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 4 brown onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 200 g (7 oz) mustard paste
  • 3 green chillies, split down the middle
  • 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) tomatoes, blitzed to a purée
  • 1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) fish stock
  • a handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

For the Pickling Liquor (makes 1l / 34 fl oz / 4 cups)

  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) white wine vinegar
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz/2 cups) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 fresh Indian bay leaves
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For the pickling liquor

  1. Put all the ingredients in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat and stir occasionally until all the sugar dissolves.
  2. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool before decanting into a sterilised jar. Store in the fridge until required.

For the main dish

  1. First make the pickled fennel. Cover the sliced fennel with the pickling liquor and steep for 1–2 hours. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. To make the sauce, heat up a splash of the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, then add the cumin seeds and stir. Add the onions and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until translucent.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of turmeric along with the mustard paste and chillies and cook for further 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and lime juice, turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes have reduced by half and the sauce has thickened. Gradually add the fish stock to achieve a looser sauce consistency, then stir in the coriander and 1 teaspoon of salt. Keep the sauce simmering on a low heat while you prepare the fish.
  5. Season the hake and mullet using the remaining oil, salt and turmeric. Pan-fry the fillets, skin-side only, to crisp up. (The fish will finish cooking in the broth.)
  6. Heat the wine in a saucepan over a high heat, add the clams, cover and cook for 3–4 minutes until they have opened up. Discard any that remain closed.
  7. Drop the langoustines in the hot tomato sauce, along with the fish, (skin-side up), and then the clams.
  8. Top with the pickled fennel and coriander before dishing out into bowls.

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