Dopiaza literally means double onions and this style of curry is one of my favourites. The onions in the dish are separated into two lots. One half is finely sliced and caramelised and added to the curry at the end of the cooking time, which thickens the sauce and adds a lovely hint of sweetness. The other half is finely minced with ginger and garlic and cooked as the base for the curry. You can make it with chicken or lamb but I make it regularly with fish for family dinners as a way of getting my nieces to eat more seafood. This is a mildly spiced curry but you can certainly make it hotter by adding more chillies or cayenne pepper. The thing that will really elevate the taste of this curry is the time that you take to cook out the onion and tomato mixture, it should take up to 30 minutes and you’ll get an incredibly intense flavour if you’re patient with this step – it’s the one single process that most home curries skip and the one that elevates a curry to restaurant quality. Serve it with plain basmati rice and a yogurt cucumber raita.
Ingredients – Serves 6
4-6 fillets (depending on size) of white fleshed fish, skinned – I used John Dory but you can also use snapper or flathead
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon Tumeric
2 large onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
Vegetable oil (not olive)
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 long red chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon tumeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon best quality mild curry powder
1 can diced tomatoes
300ml coconut cream
Some fresh coriander leaves for garnishing
Wash and pat dry the fish fillets. Sprinkle the fillets with the lemon juice, turmeric and salt on both sides. Heat some oil in a fry pan and cook the fish briefly on both sides until just opaque. You’re not cooking the fish through completely at this time, it will finish cooking in the curry. Set aside. Wash out the pan and heat about a quarter of a cup of oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook stirring regularly until the onions are a deep golden brown, being careful not to burn them. Drain on absorbent paper and set aside.
Put the onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and chilli in a food processor and blend until the onions and ginger are very finely minced. In a large saucepan or deep sided fry pan, preferably non stick, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onion tomato mixture and cook over medium low heat until the mixture has darkened and turned a rich golden colour. You’ll need to stand by and stir regularly and it should take about 30 minutes to achieve this (see middle picture below). Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander and curry powder and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, diced tomatoes and about half a can of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Check every 10 minutes or so and if the mixture is looking too thick add a little more water.
At the end of the cooking time stir in the caramelised onions. If the sauce is too thick add a little water from a recently boiled kettle to thin it out. Bring back to a simmer and gently lower in the fish fillets. At this stage the curry should not be stirred at all, this will ensure that your curry doesn’t have a “fishy” flavour. Just spoon the sauce over the fish to ensure the fillets are covered and let it gently cook for about 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked and warmed through. Serve garnished with fresh coriander.