Palestinian-British chef and food writer Joudie Kalla recently released her second cookbook, Baladi, which means 'my home, my land, my country' and introduces readers to more of the Middle East’s best-kept secret – Palestinian cuisine. Here, she shares with us her recipe for samakeh harra or spicy fish in a tahini, yogurt, lemon and parsley sauce. We recommend serving this dish on a large platter at your next dinner party.
“Samakeh harra is one of my all-time favourite dishes. I have a similar recipe to this in my first book, Palestine on a Plate, which is the version that my mother’s family use. They are from the coastal area of Palestine, from Yaffa and El-Lyd, which means their version is lighter and sharper. My father’s family is from Safad, which is closer to the border of Lebanon, so they are in the north of Palestine where the climate is colder, and this is reflected in the slightly heavier dishes that they make. This version is cooked with tahini sauce and cayenne pepper and covered with toasted pine nuts. I like to eat it with rice to make it more of a meal.”
1 x 800g white fish of your choice (I use sea bream), scaled and gutted
1 tsp. salt
Juice of 1 lemon
200g pine nuts
50g butter, melted
A pinch of paprika
A small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Olive oil to drizzle
For the tahini sauce:
6 tbsp. Greek yogurt
3 tbsp. tahini
Juice of 2–3 lemons
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan (200°C/400°F/Gas 6). Place the fish in a baking dish on baking parchment or kitchen foil, season with the salt and lemon juice and cook for 30–40 minutes until the eyes become opaque and the flesh tender.
2. While the fish is cooking, prepare the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a bowl. It should not be too thin, as it won’t hold on to the fish while it cooks for the last 10 minutes, which is what you want it to do. Taste the sauce for seasoning – it should be tangy, creamy and spicy. Add more salt if necessary and once you’re happy with the favour, set it aside.
3. In a pan, toast the pine nuts in the butter until golden brown. Don’t cook them for any longer than this as they can become quite bitter.
4. Remove the fish from the oven, then remove the baking parchment from underneath the fish and discard. Drizzle the tahini sauce over the fish, reserving just a little for serving. Place it back in the oven for a further 10 minutes to cook and heat through.
5. Once the fish is cooked, warm the remaining tahini sauce in a pan and pour it over the fish. Scatter over the pine nuts, paprika and parsley, drizzle with olive oil and serve straight away.