WHOLE BAKED FISH WITH SPICY RED SAUCE (SAMKEH HARRAH)
FOOD & DRINK
SERVES 6 / PREPARATION 30 MINUTES PLUS COOLING AND MARINATING TIME / COOKING 60 MINUTES A spicy tomato sauce is my idea of heaven, especially when paired with my favourite spice, cumin. Here I’ve used dried and fresh chilli – the dried gives some warmth and a rounded flavour, while the fresh provides the punch. Based on samkeh harrah, a sauce of endless variations found throughout the Middle East, it pairs beautifully with fish or vegetables. FOR THE SAUCE 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 onion, finely chopped 1 red capsicum, deseeded, diced 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 2 teaspoons ground cumin pinch of chilli flakes grated zest and juice of 1 lemon 1-2 red chillies, finely chopped 3 large tomatoes peeled, diced 1 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped ¼ cup toasted walnut pieces, roughly chopped Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and capsicum and fry gently until soft – around 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, chilli flakes, lemon zest and chillies and fry for another minute. Add the tomatoes, season generously with salt and add half the coriander. Cook for 10 minutes or until thickened slightly then add the lemon juice, remaining coriander and the walnuts. Set aside to cool. FOR THE RICE 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 onions, thinly sliced 2 teaspoons sea salt 2 cups basmati rice pinch of saffron soaked in 2 tablespoons boiling water for 20 minutes 3 cups chicken or fish stock or water 1 cup dill, finely chopped Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onions and half the salt and cook very gently until soft and starting to caramelise – around 10 minutes. Add the rice and fry for a minute to toast, then add the saffron and the stock or water and the remaining salt and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to steam for 5 minutes. Fluff up with a fork and stir in the dill. TO COOK THE FISH & SERVE 1 whole fish (about 1.5kg-2kg), scaled, gutted (I used John Dory) extra virgin olive oil to rub and drizzle 2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts ½ cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped Remove the spines along the spine of the fish and the fins. Pat dry and cut three slashes on an angle on each side of the fish. Place on a baking paper-lined oven tray. Rub with a little olive oil and season with salt. Rub some of the sauce in the gut cavity and into the cuts, then top with the remaining sauce. Leave to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Put the fish in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes depending on size. A knife, when inserted into the thickest part, should not meet with any resistance. Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes, then transfer to a platter. Scatter over the walnuts and coriander, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve with the rice. WINE A light, lean chardonnay, such as the te Pā Marlborough Chardonnay 2016.