Samke harrah al-sahara

Samke harrah al-sahara

Baked fish with hot chilli sauce

By
From
The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook
Serves
4
Photographer
Alan Benson

Many versions of this famous Lebanese fish dish exist. Even pronunciations and the resultant transliteration vary considerably. The regional Arabic for fish is samke (singular) and samek (plural), the ‘a’ pronounced as the ‘u’ in ‘up’, and the ‘e’ as in ‘end’. Thus spellings vary from samke, sumke, sumki to samek, samak and sumak.

This delicious version was graciously provided by Mrs Laudy Jammal and Mr Jimmy Antoun of the popular AI-Sahara Lebanese restaurant in Chatswood, a Sydney suburb, so I have just as graciously used their translation.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 snapper or other fish suitable for baking, (about 2 kg)
salt, for sprinkling
100ml olive oil

Hot chilli sauce

Quantity Ingredient
4-6 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons coriander leaves, finely chopped
270g tahini
125ml lemon juice
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground hot chilli or chilli pepper

To garnish

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon pine nuts, pan-fried in 1 tablespoon olive oil until golden
lemon wedges
coriander leaves

Method

  1. Clean and scale the fish if necessary. Leave the head on but remove the eyes. Slash the body diagonally in two places on each side. Sprinkle inside and out with salt, then cover and refrigerate for 1–2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C.
  3. Pat the fish dry. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the fish over high heat for a few minutes each side. Do not cook it through. Remove the pan from the heat, then lift the fish out and place in a baking dish.
  4. To make the hot chilli sauce, pound the garlic cloves with the salt, then mix in the coriander. Tip most of the oil out of the frying pan, leaving about 2 tablespoons. Heat the oil and add the garlic mixture; fry quickly until the mixture is crisp, but not burnt. Remove from the heat and cool.
  5. Place the tahini in a bowl, beat well, then gradually add 125 ml water, beating constantly. The mixture will thicken. Gradually beat in the lemon juice, then stir in the garlic mixture and chilli to taste. Add more salt if necessary.
  6. Pour the sauce over the fish, covering it completely. Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and the sauce is bubbling.
  7. Lift the fish onto a platter and spoon the sauce over the top. Sprinkle with the pan-fried pine nuts and garnish the platter with lemon wedges and coriander. Serve hot.
Tags:
The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook
Tess
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Middle Eastern
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