DINNER PARTIES REQUIRE A SHOW-STOPPER, AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THIS IS.
It’s a meal-in-one. Protein, rice and veggies in one dish.
It’s an Ottolenghi recipe, inspired by a dish from Aleppo. I have an affinity for Lebanese/Syrian cuisine. I grew up in a region, where I was surrounded by Levantine flavors and I still crave them.
The day I made this dish I found a fantastic red snapper so I cooked a single whole fish, but you can bake 2 or 3 smaller fish. Any flaky, white fish will work. Remember to tell the fishmonger that you plan to stuff the fish. They’ll open it up for you.
HERE’S MY TAKE:
1 whole red snapper (3lbs.), scaled and gutted (you can use 2-3 smaller fish)
FOR THE MARINADE:
- 100ml olive oil, plus extra to drizzle over the fish
- 75ml lemon juice
- 3 tbsp paprika
- 1½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tbsp coarse sea salt
FOR THE STUFFING:
- 150g short grain rice
- 150ml water
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- ½ medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 celery stick, finely chopped
- ½ preserved lemon, flesh only, finely chopped
- 60g toasted pine nuts
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp allspice
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp salt
FOR THE POTATOES:
- 4 medium potatoes
- 2 medium lemons, thinly sliced, pips removed
- Lemon wedges (optional), to serve
*Don’t forget to scroll down for your Savory Sounds cooking soundtrack.
- Put the fish in a long container. Whisk together the marinade ingredients, pour over the fish and leave for at least 30 minutes and up to two hours.
- Make the stuffing. Put the rice and water in a small saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes. The rice should almost cook through.
- Drain the rice, allow it to cool. Mix with the remaining stuffing ingredients. Set aside.
- When you’re ready to cook the fish, preheat the oven to 220C/425F.
- Roughly peel the potatoes (I don’t mind a bit of skin). Cut into half-inch slices. Put in a saucepan, cover with water and boil for 6-10 minutes to soften. Drain, run under cold water and leave to dry.
- Lift the fish from its marinade and transfer to a plate. Put the cooked potatoes and slices of lemon into the marinade, toss gently to coat, then spread evenly inside a roasting tray that’s large enough to accommodate the fish. Bake until the potatoes begin to take on some color and the lemon starts to shrivel (about 15-20 minutes).
- While the potatoes are roasting, fill the fish with the stuffing.
- Remove roasting tray from the oven. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of water over the potatoes. Lay the fish on top of the hot potatoes, drizzle with oil. Cover the tray with aluminum foil.
- Turn down the oven to 200C/400F. Return the roasting tray to the oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil and cook for five to 20 minutes more. The timing will depend on the size of fish, so keep an eye on it. When the fish is done, the flesh will bounce back when you press it.
- Serve straight from the tray, with extra lemon wedges, if you wish.
This dish takes a bit of prep, but it’s worth it. From the fish, to the rice and the potatoes soaked in marinade, there are so many layers. The whole dish just oozes flavors…
DINNER PARTIES REQUIRE DINNER PARTY BEATS. HERE ARE A FEW.
PS. These are a departure from my usual clubbing tunes. They are by no means “elevator music”, but they are easier on the ear palate and won’t overpower conversation.
First, a Buena Vista Social Club version of the Coldplay classic “Clocks” (any Buena Vista CD is perfect for a dinner party):
In a similar vibe, here’s the Mark Ronson/Lily Allen mix of “Oh My God”. For me, it epitomizes “Cool Britannia” and brings back many homely memories from London:
This was the opening track to the Spike Lee movie Inside Man, a brilliant rendition of a Bollywood classic (yes, really):
No dinner would be complete without a version of “Oye Como Va”, and this one is from the movie Chef.
And finally, I’ve never gone through a single dinner without playing this Brazilian ballad from the movie Woman on Top (The whole soundtrack is fab! Worth getting!)