They say when one door closes, another one opens, and that is surely the case. Last week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we somewhat sadly said farewell to Israeli-born, UK-based chef Yotam Ottolenghi. Ottolenghi's unique brand of "Middle Eastern food with a western twist", was hugely inspirational to us all and introduced many of us to a whole range of new and interesting ingredients.
This week, we welcome in our new chef, leading Australian food editor and cookbook author, Donna Hay. Donna, who publishes a top-selling bi-monthly magazine, and has 18 award-winning cookbooks to her credit, is probably best known for her simply prepared, basic ingredients, gorgeously styled and beautifully photographed. As you can imagine, Donna is a busy woman, and like many of us doesn't have time to spend on complex dishes - instead her mantra is creating simple, elegant, flavourful dishes using a clever mix of store-bought and fresh ingredients - and who amongst us is not saying "hear, hear" to that?!
And the great news is that, in order to create those simple, yet excitingly flavourful dishes, Donna uses many of those ingredients that we've come to know through our now good friend Ottolenghi - ingredients such as sumac, pomegranate molasses, and harissa and tzatziki, which feature in today's recipe of Harissa Fish with Lemon Couscous from Fast, Fresh, Simple.
Now by all means use store-bought harissa and tzatziki if you choose - Donna would not only condone it, but in actual fact recommend it. But for those of you who, like me, prefer to make things from scratch (time prevailing), I've offered instructions. The tzatziki really only takes about two minutes to prepare, so hardly an arduous task. The harissa does take a little more time, but I make it in big batches when peppers and chillies are at peak seasonality (which, for those of you in the northern hemisphere, is right now) and then store in the freezer. Taking a packet out of the freezer throughout the year then becomes my equivalent of a "store-bought" ingredient. You can find my recipe for harissa here.
Apart from making my tzatziki and using homemade harissa, the only other minor changes I made to the recipe were using preserved lemon (another one of my pantry staples, which I make plenty of when lemons are in season) instead of grated lemon zest in the couscous, and adjusting quantities to make lunch for one instead of serving two as per the recipe. If you want to serve two people, simply double the couscous quantities and buy an extra fillet of fish - easy!
Verdict: This was a delicious dish, that had plenty going on, both flavourwise and texturally. The harissa packed a good punch of heat, but still managed not to overpower the fish, while the salty hits of preserved lemon were a great complement to both the fish and the couscous, and the cooling, tangy tzatziki brought it all together. It's rare for me to have a cooked lunch, as I normally can't be bothered with too much effort in the middle of the day - a cup of soup or a couple of eggs on toast, maybe a simple salad, is normally par for the course, but this dish took really very little effort (less than 15 minutes max from start to finish) and I would definitely make this again, even for lunch.
with Lemony Couscous & Tzatziki Recipe
Adapted from recipe from Fast, Fresh, Simple
by Donna Hay
Makes 1 generous serving
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
Tzatziki (or use store-bought, no-one will judge):
1/4 cup natural, unsweetened Greek-style yoghurt
piece of cucumber about 6cm (2-1/2") long, peeled, deseeded & finely chopped
small handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
generous pinch flaky sea salt
1/2 cup couscous
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 preserved lemon, flesh discarded and skin finely sliced
juice of 1/2 a lemon
generous handful of baby spinach leaves
freshly ground black pepper
Note: If you don't have preserved lemon, use the grated zest of a lemon. It won't pack quite the same flavour punch as the preserved lemon, but it will still taste great.
1x tarakihi fillet, skinned and boned
1-2 tablespoons harissa (see recipe here or use store-bought)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 a lemon
Begin by rubbing harissa all over both sides of the fish, and then set aside while you make the tzatziki and prepare the couscous.
To make the tzatziki, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Set aside.
Now on to the couscous. Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Meanwhile, place the couscous, sliced preserved lemon, lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl. Pour the boiling chicken stock over the couscous, cover with cling film and set aside to steam while you cook the fish.
Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add fish to the pan and cook through - it will probably take about 3 minutes on each side.
Remove cling film from the couscous and gently fluff up with a fork. Taste. You most likely won't need salt as the preserved lemon is quite salty, and the chicken stock should also be already seasoned. However, if you substituted grated lemon zest instead of the preserved lemon, you may want to add a pinch of flaky sea salt or another squeeze of lemon juice. Stir in the spinach leaves.
To serve, arrange lemony couscous and spinach on a plate, top with fish, and add a dollop of tzatziki and a lemon cheek on the side.
If you would like to get to know Donna Hay a little better, and to see what everyone has cooked up to say "G'day" to Donna, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...
... or check out Fast, Fresh, Simple and Donna's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.
I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Friday, hosted by Designs by Gollam.