Pan-fried bass fillets spiced with turmeric are served on a bed of fragrant masala dhal.


  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 lime, juice only

  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

  • 4 x 175-225g/6-8oz skinned pomfret or sea bass fillets

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil

  • For the Masala Dhal

  • 250g/9oz red lentils

  • 570ml/1 pintwater

  • 225g/8oz onions

  • 225g/8oz tomatoes

  • 175g/6oz ghee or clarified butter

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 1 tbsp turmeric powder

  • 1 tsp chilli powder

  • 150ml/5fl oz coconut milk

  • 15g/½oz black mustard seeds

  • 2.5cm/1in fresh root ginger, finely chopped

  • 2 green chillies, seeded and finely chopped

  • a pinch of asafoetida (optional)

  • 3 tbsp coriander, chopped roughly

  • salt


  • 1.

    For the dhal, cover the lentils with the water and leave them to soak. Coarsely chop half the onions and finely chop the rest. Cut half the tomatoes into small chunks and finely dice the rest.

  • 2.

    Heat half the ghee or clarified butter in a heavy-based pan. Fry the garlic, coarsely chopped onions and tomato chunks for 5 minutes, until the mixture has cooked to a golden-brown paste.

  • 3.

    Pour in the lentils and their soaking water and bring to the boil.

  • 4.

    Mixture has thickened (about 30 minutes). Season to taste with some salt and remove from the heat.

  • 5.

    To finish the dhal, heat the rest of the ghee or butter in a large, deep frying pan. Add the mustard seeds, cover the pan with a lid and fry until the seeds begin to pop.

  • 6.

    Add the ginger, the rest of the onions and tomatoes, the green chillies and the asafoetida, if using. Cook for 5 minutes and then pour everything into the lentil mixture and stir well. Keep warm while you fry the fish.

  • 7.

    Mix the salt, lime juice and turmeric together and rub well into the fish fillets. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan, add the fillets and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side.

  • 8.

    Stir the coriander into the dhal and serve with the fish.

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