Special Cod Makhani with Pilau Rice

Pan fried cod with Makhani curry sauce, served on pilau rice.

My Makhai curry sauce is one of my favourites, and one I can confidently say rivals even the best of Indian restaurants here in the UK.

With this dish i decided to make a ‘posher’ version and decided to use pan fried cod as the sauce complements the delicate sweet white fish very well. I serve this with a delicious pilau rice which also complements the dish extremely well. The rice tastes extremely authentic yet is very straightforward to make whilst the curry sauce cooks.

Special Cod Makhani


Serves two people

Cooking time approx 45 minutes


For the curry sauce:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 medium sized brown onions (cut into chunks)

5 cloves garlic (peeled and crushed)

5 cloves

5 cardamom pods

3 bay leaf

1 large red chili (sliced)

6 round tomatoes (quartered)

thumb sized piece of ginger (cut 1/4 off, then thinly slice the rest)

100-150ml water

160ml coconut cream

3 tablespoons desiccated coconut

1 tablespoon dried sliced almonds

1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

1-2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1/4 teaspoon crushed fenugreek

25g butter (cut into cubes)

A hand blender is required. Best cooked in a large deep pan.

For the fish:

2 cod portions (approx 200g each)

50g butter for pan frying

Sea salt

Black pepper

Best cooked in a large flat non stick frying pan.

For the pilau rice:

4 shallots – finely chopped

2 cloves garlic – thinly slice

15g butter

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Chicken stock – twice the volume of the rice

150g basmati rice

4 cardamom pods

4 cloves

1 bay leaf

Pinch saffron

Best cooked in a dutch oven style cast iron pan with a heavy well fitting lid.

Cooking instructions

Pictural examples below:

  1. Start by making the sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the deep pan, the add the chopped onions. Fry for 5-8 minutes over a medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened and have colour. Do not worry about the onions browning as this adds flavour to the dish. Next add the desiccated coconut, garlic, chopped ginger, bay leaf, cardamom pods, cloves and the sliced chili. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes to the pan, stir well. Add 100-150ml water to the pan, this should be enough to cover the tomatoes, if you add too much the dish takes a little longer to cook. The aim here is to give the tomatoes enough liquid to break down and form a sauce without making the sauce too loose. Simmer uncovered over a medium heat for 20 minutes. Then remove the bay, cardamom and cloves then use the stick blender to form a smooth curry paste. Add the coconut cream, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Stir well until combined. Set aside for the moment.
  3. Now make the pilau rice. Start by frying the shallots and garlic in a tablespoon of vegetable oil over a medium heat. Add 15g butter along with 1/8 teaspoon Cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon coriander. Fry and stir for 2 minutes until the spices become fragrant (do not allow these to burn).
  4. Add the rice and stir so that each grain is coated in the fried spice mix. Then add the chicken stock (this should be twice the volume of rice). Add 4 cardamom, 4 cloves, pinch saffron and a bay leaf then reduce heat to low and place lid on pan. It should take approx 15 minutes for the rice to absorb all the liquid, when this is done the rice is ready. Do not stir the rice once the liquid is added as this will cause the rice to break up and become mushy.
  5. Back to the sauce: As the pilau cooks finish off the sauce, warm the sauce through over a medium heat. Add the butter and stir through the sauce as it melts – this will give the sauce the classic ‘gleam’ of Indian dishes. Add the sliced almonds (keep a few to add as a garnish), the grated ginger, 1/4 teaspoon crushed fennugreek and the half teaspoon of garam masala – use your fingers to sprinkle the spices in as otherwise they can clump together in the sauce.
  6.  Now cook the cod: Add the butter to the frying pan and put over a medium heat until the butter melts and starts to bubble.
  7. Season the cod with a little salt and pepper on both sides before adding to the pan. Fry for 3 minutes on each side, basting with butter frequently. The cod should get some nice colouration as it cooks. Once cooked remove cod from the pan and drain on absorbent paper.
  8. Carefully remove lid from rice and check that the rice has absorbed all the liquid – if not replace the lid, and give the rice a few extra minutes. Heat the curry sauce through until it bubbles just before serving.
  9. Serve the dish – bed of rice, cod on top then a generous amount of sauce over the fish. Sprinkle the chopped coriander and a few sliced almonds as a garnish  – enjoy!