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Sri Lankan Sweet Potato and Snapper Curry

This is based on a dish from the Flying Fish restaurant, Sydney that I first came across in the Australian Gourmet Traveller – it is a total winner. Friends request me to make this for dinner all the time and I have tweaked the recipe for the home cook.
There are a few things I love about it – I love the curry is separate from the fish, so I can serve it to vegetarians easily as well rather than create a whole separate meal. Plus it means any left-over curry sauce freezes well. Lastly, I adore freshly pan-fried snapper fillets, pure simplicity for my favourite white fish, and sweet potato is a wonderful low GI vegetable that you an really tuck into.
The key to Sri Lankan curries is the use of curry leaves which are used here.  The sauce can be made in advance and kept in the fridge to ready to reheat gently on the stove again – be careful not to cook the sweet potato further though.

Pictured: Little bowl of Sri Lankan Sweet Potato Curry

25g each of butter and a light vegetable or olive oil – or 50g ghee
¼ cup dried curry leaves, or fresh is you have them
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 large brown onions, finely chopped
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 stick of cinnamon
½ tsp cardamom
1/3 cup curry powder – Sri Lankan if you can find it, try the favourite Fiji Market on King St Newtown where I like the Natraj Special Mix Hot Curry Powder, otherwise I like Bolst’s mild curry which you can find in David Jones Food Halls. Any favourite curry powder can work.
1.5 litres chicken stock
2 tsp fennel seeds – you can soak in water for 10 minutes to remove the slightly bitter taste they have if you have time
1.2kg sweet potato, cut into 1cm pieces
1 x 375ml tins coconut cream
1 x 375ml tins coconut milk

vegetable oil for frying
6 snapper fillets [about 200 gm each], skin on and pin-boned

To serve-
Steamed basmati rice,  plain yoghurt, chutney and pickles

Heat the oil and butter or ghee in a large casserole pot til hot and hazy, add the onion, garlic and curry leaves and toss to coat and let soften for a few minutes – do not brown.

Add the spices –turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, curry powder and coat the onions again and cook gently a few minutes to release the fragrance.

Add the fennel seeds and stock and bring to the boil, add the sweet potato and simmer for 8 – 10 minutes til just cooked. Once almost ready add the coconut milk and cream and turn the heat off if preparing advance, to allow it to cool and be placed in the fridge for later. Otherwise let it come back to boil and simmer the last minute or two before serving to mingle the flavours.

When ready to serve, heat a fry pan to high and add the oil – place snapper skin side down into pan and press firmly straight away to stop the fish from curling too much on impact with the hot oil. Once it has settled let cook away on high heat til nice and golden, approximately 4 minutes, then turn and finish cooking the other side for another 3 minutes or so – the flesh should just start to flake.

To serve – place a ladle of rice in each shallow bowl, topped with a piece of snapper and small bowls of curry on the side, condiments on the table.

Serves 6