One of things I am most thankful for now that I’m a tax paying member of society proper, is having what parents everywhere I’m sure call a proper job. No longer a student, I don’t have to base my weekly menu around what I can stretch the dregs of my overdraft to, rather I can buy my groceries from the ever delightful Ocado and the reliance on cheap, filling, often far too carb heavy meals is no more in the forefront of my mind. I’m genuinely thankful. I count myself a very lucky lass. In our diminutive budget days, me and Hungry Hubby rarely saw fresh fish on the table unless we were being taken out for dinner but we do love it and these days, I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to get more fish (and less chicken – sorry hubs!) into our digestive systems! This happened to be my latest “find” and I’m so eager to share it with you!
Here we have a yet another jewel in the Ottolenghi crown, a Jewish fish dish fast to make and lip smacking oh good to eat from his latest book Jerusalem. Having become somewhat addicted to his hawayej kebabs (white fish fillet chunks marinaded then grilled in an alarming spice mix – it contains cinnamon amongst other things, something I never thought could go so well with fish! – mixed with olive oil, garlic and lots of fresh parsley), I thought he must have other spectacular ways to serve us some tasty fish. Yet again – this one delivers big time on tastebud thrilling spices, sourness from tomato purée, fresh lemon juice and green chilli. It’s called “chraimeh” sauce and Ottolenghi describes it as red, hot and spicy. Perfecto. I loves me a bit o’ tangy spice!
You start by searing the fish fillets in a hot pan then leaving to rest whilst you make the sauce in the same pan. The whole meal was on the table in under 30 minutes. A wee mid week miracle it is! Next you blitz up a garlicky, chilli studded spice paste which you cook in a little oil before adding the tomato purée, water and lemon juice. And there ends the work really. Those Sephardic Tripolitan Jews know how make good, healthy food fast! I used some Alaskan salmon fillets as they looked good this week but any fish will do – white or pink. Those steaks cut across the back bone of small salmon darnes were what is featured in Jerusalem but Otto tells us any fish will do and as he suggests, I plan to use a whole seabass next time I want a special fish dinner for me and the Hungry one. So back to the dish in hand – return the seared fillets and cook through. I don’t have a lid for this frying pan but luckily my stoneware dinner plate fits perfectly 😉
Serving fish in chraimeh sauce with challah is the traditional way to go but as I try and limit my carb intake to a sensible amount each day, I love a dish that doesn’t mandate bread on the side. So, I sliced some baby cauliflowers and broccoli, sprayed with rapeseed oil (a recent find from Costco – me likey much!) then I crossed the border from Libya into Egypt and shook out a healthy amount of dukkah. It works perfectly with these veg as it contains sesame seeds, roasted chopped hazelnuts, coriander and cumin seeds, thyme and black peppercorns. For those days when the bread board is out on the dinner table, pour out a river of thick extra virgin olive oil and pour in some dukkah so you can dunk and delight in the earthy, roasted nutty flavours. But they are perfection with cauli and broccoli too.
Hungry Hubby absolutely loved this dish. There were mumblings oh “ooo yeah” as he ate and he finished with a sure fire sign a recipe is a keeper “you can do that one again!”. He doesn’t do much cooking does my hubs but then, that’s hardly a hardship for me! The oily salmon cooked until it is only just set in the middle draped in a thick, rich tomato sauce that pops in your mouth with all that citrusy spice and warming garlic and chilli together with a mouthful of slightly charred roasted veg is just a joy. My only regret was I hadn’t made more veg so I could make the meal last longer! Don’t make my mistake – just make this dinner now 😉
- Two thick fish fillets
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1/2 tbsp caraway seeds
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 green chilli chopped
- About 100ml water
- 1.5 tbsp tomato purée Juice of a lemon
- Caster sugar to taste <1 tsp I would say
- Salt and pepper as liked
Heat a dribble of the oil in a medium hot pan and sear the fish on both sides rapidly.
Take out and keep warm nearby.
Blitz everything bar the lemon, tomato purée and sugar to a thick paste in a mini blender or with a stick blender - you may want to add a little oil or a little water to help the blitzing.
Add the remaining oil to the pan then cook the thick paste until it releases its aromas.
Now turn the heat down a little and add the purée, lemon, spinach or two of sugar to balance the acidic tomatoes and enough water to loosen the paste.
Turn your heat up again and return the fish fillets to the pan, bring the sauce around it to a gentle simmer and cover until cooked to your liking - I err on the side of less is more with fish and only want it to just turn from jelly to opaque (less than 5 minutes for my fillets but do adjust to your own preferences and go by the thickness of the fish when judging how long it needs).
Adapted from Jerusalem by Ottolenghi & Tamimi