"The hero of this dish is the dahl, made with creamy coconut milk and fresh tomato. The fish plays a supporting role, which makes for an excellent light-on-meat option. You could even ditch the fish altogether, for a humble yet delicious meal." Matthew Evans, For the Love of Meat






Skill level

Average: 3.8 (36 votes)


  • 50 g ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 4–5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2–3 sprigs curry leaves
  • 2 long green chillies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, finely diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 300 g Spanish mackerel cutlets or firm white fleshed fish fillets such as pink ling
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
  • coriander sprigs and steamed rice, to serve


  • 250 g red lentils
  • 50 g ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2.5 cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 100 ml coconut milk
  • salt and pepper

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


To make the dahl, put the lentils a large bowl, cover with 600 ml water and set aside. Melt the ghee in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to sizzle, add the onion and ginger, stir for a minute, then add the tomato, garlic and turmeric. Cook, stirring continuously, for 5-6 minutes or until you have a fragrant paste. Add the coconut milk and the lentils along with their soaking water. Increase the heat to high and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the dahl has thickened and the lentils are completely soft. Season to taste and remove from the heat.

Heat the ghee in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they begin to pop, then add the cumin seeds and once they sizzle, add the onion. Stir for a minute then add the garlic, curry leaves and chilli. Fry until the garlic is light brown, then stir in the tomato. Cook for another minute, then pour everything into the lentil mixture and stir well.

Mix the salt, lime juice and turmeric together and rub all over the fish fillets. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat and fry the fish for 2–3 minutes on each side until lightly golden and just cooked through. Remove from the pan and break into chunks. 

Scatter the dahl with coriander leaves and serve with the grilled fish and steamed rice. 


Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Vanessa Austin. Food preparation by Alex Herbert.


For The Love of Meat with Matthew Evans starts Thursday 20 October at 7.30pm on SBS and then on SBS On Demand.  Visit the program page for show information, related articles and more recipes.