Get Spicy! Seasoning with Health Benefits

Indian Spice-Crusted Fish with Mint, Cilantro and Ginger Sauce


Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto


It’s spring and that means a wider availability of fresh fish.  Looking for a little culinary excitement I created this crust of Indian seasonings.  The crust brings a little spicy personality to mild-mannered white fish filets.

Toast and grind your own spices for a depth of flavor hard to get from pre-ground spices. 

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

I bought a small coffee grinder to use exclusively for spices and use it often.

With the exception of fenugreek, which may require a visit to an Indian or Middle Eastern shop, most of the seasonings in the crust are available at any grocery. It makes for an inspiring field trip.  Fenugreek is native to India and Asia Minor and the leaves and seeds have been used in Indian cooking since pre-Vedic times (1500 to 1000 BCE) according to Julie Sahni (Reference 1). 

Getting spicy may mean getting healthy too. There’s a fascinating,  growing body of research on the health benefits of spices and herbs is The McCormick Spice Institute (Reference 2) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (Reference 3) are sources for this work. 

The health benefits of golden hued turmeric, which I wrote about in my Detox blog  may be the most well-researched  seasoning.  The active ingredient, curcumin, has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and tumor-suppressing properties.  Fenugreek has been shown to benefit blood glucose control. Cumin and Ginger have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Ginger may help with nausea and pain.  Red chili peppers contain capsaisin with potential anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits. 

 An herbaceous sauce of fresh mint, cilantro, spicy pepper and ginger bound with a little Greek yogurt makes a creamy topping for the crusted fish.    I went spice-crazy in the accompaniments for this meal and rounded it out with a millet-lentil pilaf and sauté of cabbage, fennel and onion, both warmly colored with turmeric and more Indian spices along with a salad of tossed greens and mandarins with a creamy cilantro dressing.  

Wake up your cooking with spices.


1. Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni, William Morrow Company, 1980. P. 15-16.

2. The McCormick Science Institute   

3. American Institute for Cancer Research:  The Spices of Cancer Prevention


Indian Spice-Crusted Fish with Mint, Cilantro and Ginger Sauce

Instead of sautéing the fish filets you can roast them in a 400° F oven: Place the spice-crusted filets on an oiled oven-proof rack set on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes or until opaque in the center. Cooking time varies with the thickness of the filets – watch carefully as lean fish is easy to overcook. states fish should be cooked to 145° F, looks opaque and separates easily with a fork.  Many chefs think this is overcooked and cook to a lower internal temperature 125°F to 135°F.


2 tablespoons coriander seed

4 teaspoons yellow or black mustard seed

1 teaspoon cumin seed

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seed

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons avocado or other flavorless vegetable oil

4 (6-ounce) white fish filets such as cod or rockfish, without skin

1/2 cup orange juice

Mint, Cilantro and Ginger Sauce, recipe follows


1. Heat a small skillet (with a lid) over medium-low heat.  Add coriander and mustard seed.  Cover with lid and heat until mustard seeds begin to pop. Stir in cumin and fenugreek, re-cover skillet and heat for about 15 to 20 seconds, swirling pan once or twice.  Remove from heat.   Cool.  

 2. Place toasted spices in a coffee grinder and pulse a few times to grind to a coarse texture.  In small bowl, combine ground mixture with turmeric, ginger, sea salt and cayenne pepper. 

 3. Pat seasoning onto both sides of fish filets, dividing evenly. 

4. Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drizzle in oil.  Add filets.  Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown.  Carefully turn over filets and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until brown.  Add orange juice, cover and steam for another minute or just until fish is opaque in center.

5. Place filets on warm plates and drizzle pan juices over top.  Serve with Mint, Cilantro and Ginger Sauce. Accompany with rice, millet or whole wheat naan, as desired.  Makes 4 servings.


Mint, Cilantro and Ginger Sauce:  In bowl of food processor combine ¾ cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, ¼ cup mint leaves, ¼ cup unflavored Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion, 1 teaspoon chopped peeled fresh ginger, ½ to 1 seeded fresh hot pepper (such as serrano or jalapeno), optional, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and ¼ teaspoon sea salt.  Whirl until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl once or twice.  Add additional water to thin, if desired.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Scrape into small bowl, cover and chill for 1 hour for flavors to blend. 

 © 2014 Lorelle S. Del Matto


lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


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  1. […] This comfort-food meal is packed with nutrients, too: The meal has less than 500 calories and provides 220% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A, 120% DV for Vitamin C, 20% DV for iron 52% DV for dietary fiber and 15% DV for calcium.   Turmeric, the spice that gives curry a golden color, has a long history of use for health benefits that you can read about in my blog Get Spicy…. […]

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