Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fish Kebabs with Fattoush

A photograph of Fish kebabs cooking on a barbecue
Kebabs on the Barbie

“There are plenty of unique variations on the chopped salad but one of the most popular is Fattoush… each cook, each family, each community has their own variation. A small bone of contention is the size of the dice. Some advocate the tiniest of pieces, only a few millimeters wide, others like them coarser, up to 2 cm wide. The one thing that there is no arguing over is that the key lies in the quality of the vegetables. They must be fresh, ripe and flavoursome, with many hours in the sun behind them.”

– Yotam Ottolenghi and Sammi Tamimi, Jerusalem

More photographs inside.
A photograph of a Radish

It’s a double-barrelled entry this week with two dishes starting with “F”. Isn’t it just the way? One week, we are scrambling around frantically trying to decide on what to cook and the next, we’ve got recipes coming out of our ears. Happily for us, these two dishes from one of our favourite cookbooks, Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sammi Tamimi, seemed to have been made to be eaten together. I invited my sisters, aunt and brother-in-law-to-be over for lunch to be our guinea pigs, thinking, perhaps, a bit ambitiously, that it’d be no problem making two… no, three new dishes (I also made next week’s entry for “G” as an entrée – but more on that in a few days!) as well as another side for the meal and dessert. With a bit of planning, it shouldn’t have been a problem, right?

Wrong!! My good intentions of being super-organised fell through with a spectacular crash. Dev got called into to work at the last minute and had exactly half an hour to take all manner of set up shots before scooting off.  He was also out most of the morning running errands, which meant I had to wait until he came back to take the set up shots before prepping everything. I spent most of the morning doing what I could to prepare, but going from one task to another with all the attention span of a goldfish and generally dithering. By the time my visitors arrived, I was still in my “home” clothes, with no table laid, and my kitchen in a shambles. Luckily, it was just my family and they are used to being my guinea pigs, along with the occasional chaos that heralds a new dish from me.

A photograph of marinating fish
Marinating the fish

Things improved once I had a glass of Pimms in my hand and multiple helpers, and we managed to trot out a nice little meal in the end. The fish was marinated in hawayej (described by Yotam and Sammi as a “high potency Yemeni spice mix”) and parsley.  The spice mix is made with black peppercorns, coriander, cumin, cloves, cardamom and turmeric, the seeds blitzed in a spice grinder before being mixed with ground cardamom and turmeric. We used blue-eye cod for the kebabs which worked well – it’s firm white flesh cooked to perfection on the barbeque. My favourite thing about this dish was that, despite the flavour-punch of the marinade, it didn’t mask the flavour of the fish itself.

A photograph of the fish kebabs
Fish Kebabs

The fattoush, despite having a long-ish list of ingredients (Turkish bread, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, spring onions, parsley, mint, lemon, yoghurt and milk… the list continues), was easy to make and resulted in an uncomplicated and honest mix of flavours. I love bread in salads, and this one was no exception – the untoasted Turkish bread bits which soaked up the dressing were just gorgeous. A generous sprinkle of sumac transformed this homely salad into something that was really quite special.

A photograph of Fattoush

 Technical Details

As I had run out of time to take the photographs for this post I couldn't actually take setup shots. A single flash was used for these photographs and it was bounced off the roof at 1/4th and xoomed to 24mm.

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