I gave Tandy three ingredients (four actually, but the black salt smells like dog poop and tastes like a fishpond, so we decided to ignore it) when she visited me back in August, and challenged her to a cook off using them. We’ve already done the dried lime leaves; Tandy’s here and mine here. Next on our list is ajmo; which Wikipedia explains as Trachyspermum ammi, commonly known as ajowan, bishop’s weed, ajwain, ajowan caraway, carom seeds, or thymol seeds, is a plant of India and the Near East whose seeds are used as a spice.
Raw ajwain smells almost exactly like thyme because it also contains thymol, but is more aromatic and less subtle in taste, as well as slightly bitter and pungent. Even a small amount of raw ajwain will completely dominate the flavor of a dish.
In Indian cuisine, ajwain is almost never used raw, but either dry-roasted or fried in ghee or oil. This develops a much more subtle and complex aroma, somewhat similar to caraway but “brighter”.
I decided to make individual curried fish pies for my take on the challenge. It was a lovely, sunny day and these were perfect for taking out into the garden for a picnic lunch on the lawn.
Serves 4 as a main course:
1kg firm white fish
Marinade for at least an hour in the fridge in a mixture of:
1 Tablespoon garam masala
1 Tablespoon mild curry powder
1 teaspoon ajmo
½ Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Teaspoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
Rind and juice of 2 lemons
2 Tablespoons grated ginger
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
2 Cloves garlic, chopped
1 Large onion, diced
2 Medium green chillies, chopped
Salt to taste.
12 sheets of phyllo pastry, cut to a size that will fall over the rims of 4 ramekins.
Lay each ramekin with 3 of the pastry layers one by one, so that the edges fall asymmetrically over the rims and use your fist to gently push down into the ramekins.
Spoon the fish curry mixture into the pastry, coat the edges with whipped egg. Wrap the ends over and twist into a pucker to seal.
Coat with egg mixture and bake at 180 until golden and firm, about 25 minutes.
Serve with chutney, steamed vegetables or a leafy green salad and a crisp, dry white wine; Sauvignon Blanc is perfect.