This is a favourite fish recipe from southern Persian which I learned when researching my book Pardiz. It’s full Persian name is ‘Mahi-e sorkh kardeh’.
The fish swims in a thick tomato-based sauce flavoured with numerous spices, herbs and the sourness of tamarind paste. The flavours are simple yet sophisticated – Persian food at its best. Being from southern Persia the dish contains chilli which is not used in the northern part of the country.
I first tasted the dish at Neda’s apartment in Esfahan where she had arranged a lunch for me. Neda came from the south near the Persian Gulf where hotter spices are used , influenced by the cooking of northern India. It was a privilege to cook with her and to enjoy her incredible generosity and friendliness.
Recently, at the Bermagui fish market, I found this perfect line-caught ling , a fish I really enjoy. Winter is the best time for ling which lives in the cold water on the very edge of the continental shelf. You can also use any firm white fish such as blue eye, king fish or gummy shark .
Serve with some rice mixed with fresh herbs as an accompaniment.
• serves 4 people
• 4 x 200 gr of ling fish cut into biggish pieces
• 1 teaspoon each of ground turmeric and ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon chilly flakes
• 2-3 tablespoons plain flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• mix these dry ingredients and dust the fish with the mix
• in a little olive oil, gently fry the fish on both sides
• set aside
• 1 Spanish onion chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed
• 1 teaspoon each of ground turmeric and cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
• 1/2 bunch each of chervil, tarragon, coriander and Italian parsley chopped
• 4 ripe tomatoes crushed or 1 tin pelati pulp
• 3 tablespoon tomato concentrate
• in a little olive oil gently fry the onion, garlic and the spices until onions are soft
• now add the tomatoes, tomato paste and fresh herbs ( reserve a some for decoration)
• cook for a few minutes
• mix 3 tablespoons of tamarind paste with 1 tablespoon flour
• add 200 ml hot water and mix well
• now mix the tamarind in with the onion mix
• cover and let gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time
• the sauce should be thick and the flavours melted together
• add the fish and simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes
• sprinkle on top the reserved fresh herbs
• serve with steamed rice