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A versatile mouth-watering masala paste; Part 1 - fish

Written By Reena on 19 Feb 2010 | 05:00

This recipe for a masala paste comes from my dad's family who traditionally use it for pan frying fish.  I don't eat much fish but the smell of this paste makes my mouth water even after I've just eaten a large meal.  I also use it for cooking prawns and making garlic bread.  The great thing is that once you have made the masala you can keep it in a jar in the fridge for months.

This week I will give you the instructions for the masala paste and how to use it to pan fry fish a la the Pastakia clan in Gujarat.  Over the next two weeks I will show you how to use it for prawns and bread.  You will find that a little effort in making the masala up front will give you at least 4 quick meals for two in the long run.

Serves 2


For the masala paste:
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 bulb garlic - peeled
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon light tasting vegetable oil
For the fish:
  • A thin slice of butter
  • 2 teaspoons masala paste
  • 2 skinned cod fillets
  • 1 tomato - chopped
  • A small handful of coriander - chopped
  • Salt
  • 1/2 lemon - cut into wedges
Method For the masala paste:
  1. Heat a completely clean and dry pan for several minutes until it is so hot that a drop of water evaporates immediately. 
  2. Now add the the cumin seeds, cinnamon and cloves and toss until they start releasing their aroma.  
  3. Remove the spices from the heat and crush them using a pestle and mortar.
  4. Place the crushed spices in a food blender with the garlic, black pepper, salt chilli powder, turmeric powder and vegetable oil.  Blend to create a smooth thick paste.  Add more oil if required.
  5. Transfer the paste into an airtight jar and store in the fridge until needed.
For the fish:
  1. Melt the butter in a medium sized pan.
  2. Add the masala paste and stir so that the spices flavour the butter and start to cook.
  3. After a minute or so place the cod fillets in the pan and let them cook until the the edges start to colour.
  4. Now turn the fillets over and let the other side cook.  At this point add the chopped tomato and coriander and let them cook around the fish.  Taste the sauce to check the seasoning and add salt as required.
  5. Once the fish is cooked serve immediately with fresh bread, the lemon wedges and a green salad.

About Reena


  1. I have stumbled upon your blog and everything makes me want to cook! I have already bookmarked your site and will be back often.

  2. Hi Mel. You have made my day! Have a great weekend. Reena

  3. Hi Reena,
    I made the fish with masala paste and it was AMAZING! I tried it with tilapia which is my favorite and it turned out well despite the fact that Tilapia tends to break a bit while cooking. Every dish that I have tried from your blog has turned out well and you make me want to cook more! Thank you!!!


  4. Hi Smrithi. It is always lovely to hear from you! I've never tasted Tilapia but I will have to try it. The cod always breaks when I cook it so don't worry too much about that. Keep cooking! Reena

  5. Hi Reena,
    I just made this recipe the other day, my second attempt at a receipe from your blog. I couldn't BELIEVE how amazing the paste smelled while I was making it. Seriously unreal. And once cooked with the fish, it was just amazing. I used some of the extra paste to sautee some veggies and served us each a half of a small sweet potato. The whole thing was just heaven on a plate. Can't wait to try more!!

  6. Hi Lauren, thank you for the lovely comment! I'm so glad you liked the paste - it's one of my favourites! I actually think that mixing the paste with butter and coriander and serving it on a sweet potato would be good too. Hmmm I'm drooling now! Take care. Reena