Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pan Fried Fish with Harissa & Rose Petals and A Taste for the Exotic

Pan Fried Fish with Harissa & Rose Petals 2

If you're one of my regular visitors, you will know that my absolute cooking hero is the highly inspirational Yotam Ottolenghi, and one of my favourite cookbooks is "Jerusalem: A Cookbook".  Good thing then that this week is Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, which means that we can cook any recipe we like from any one of our ten IHCC chefs, and for me that means checking back in with Ottolenghi.  It also means reconnecting with my friends in the Tasting Jerusalem group, where our special ingredient this month is harissa.

Now, I'm not going to tell you all about harissa here or tell you how to make it - I've done all that before and you can read all about it here.  I am however going to seriously recommend you do have a go at making some though, whether you use my recipe or Ottolenghi's (which is on page 301 of Jerusalem if you happen to have it).  Yes, store bought is fine, but seriously a very small investment in ingredients, effort and time will yield a substantial quantity.  It freezes really well, and once you've used it you will always want to have some on hand.

Wondering where or how you might use it?  Then check out some of these dishes in which I've used harissa for a little inspiration ...
Harissa Marinated Tarakihi with Lemony Couscous & Tzatziki
Braised Eggs with Lamb, Tahini & Sumac
or try a little Green Harissa.

Now before I move on to telling you about this dish, I want to talk a little bit about a few unusual ingredients, and some great new finds.  This is really more for the benefit of my Kiwi peeps, so everyone else please feel free to skip the next paragraph or so.  Of course, those of you who live in the main centres of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are pretty well catered for when it comes to trying to track down unusual ingredients.  In fact, just yesterday, on a flying visit to Auckland, I discovered the Persian Trading Co on Mt Eden Road, where I found dried Persian limes, barberries, and dried rose petals, ingredients I had been trying to find for a long time.  So, if you happen to live nearby, this little Aladdin's Cave of wonderful ingredients is well worth a visit.

Persian ingredients.jpg

If, however, you happen to live in the provinces, as I do, and if your tastes tend to run to the exotic, as mine do, then sourcing more unusual ingredients can be challenging.  We usually have to turn to online resources and I recently discovered a great online supplier called Global Foods Direct.  They have a fantastic selection of products (including my beloved kosher salt) that I can't get where I live, their prices are reasonable, and they were a pleasure to deal with.  They will definitely be getting a lot more orders from me!

Kosher Salt

Now back to the dish.  In his introduction to this recipe, Ottolenghi says, "This dish originates from Bizerte, the northernmost city in Africa.  It is sweet and spicy and beautifully aromatic."  He's not wrong about that.  While this is cooking your kitchen will smell amazing, a world away from the usual kind of 'fishy" cooking smells you might encounter.  Ottolenghi also suggests that this dish can be served warm or at room temperature.  By virtue of the fact that dinner in my house is presently made in the middle of the afternoon in order to capture an even half way decent photo of it (I know you can all relate), mine was indeed room temperature.  I don't think it suffered any for that though, in fact I think it probably benefited from the opportunity for all the flavours to develop and mingle in the meantime.

This dish offers an intriguing combination of flavours, which you might not normally think to put with fish.  There is of course the obvious kick of heat from the harissa, some warming spices by way of some cinnamon and cumin, acidity from vinegar balanced out with sweetness from some honey, sharp, tangy bursts of flavour from barberries (which I used in place of currants), and the exotic fragrance of rose water and rose petals.

This would be a great dish to serve for company - it's quick and simple to prepare, and yet a combination of unusual ingredients and visual appeal will make it a stand-out dish.

My changes to the recipe were minimal - just subbing in barberries for currants as I already mentioned, replacing onions with leek (as that is generally my allium of choice), increased the amount of harissa a bit, and just adjusted a few other quantities to suit.  This would serve two people as a substantial main course, with some rice or couscous and a simple spinach salad, or four as a lighter meal.

Pan Fried Fish with Harissa & Rose Petals 1

Pan Fried Fish with Harissa & Rose Petals Recipe
Adapted (slightly) from recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
from Jerusalem:  A Cookbook
Serves 2 to 4
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

400g (14 oz) firm-fleshed, white fish (I used snapper)
2 tablespoons harissa
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of flaky sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil
plain flour
1 leek, cut in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons harissa
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup water
1-1/2 tablespoons honey
rosewater (between 1 teaspoon & 1 tablespoon depending on your taste)
generous handful of barberries (or currants)
large handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 to 2 teaspoons of dried rose petals

Begin by marinating the fish.  Cut the fish into serving size portions.  In a small bowl, mix together the first measure of harissa, cumin and flaky sea salt, to make a paste, and rub it all over the fish, making sure it's well coated.  Set aside to marinate for approximately 2 hours.

Harissa Marinated Fish

Set a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat, and add olive oil to the pan.  While the oil is heating dust the fish liberally, both sides, with flour and shake off the excess.  Add the fish to the hot pan (working in batches if necessary), and cook the fish until golden and not quite cooked through - about 2 minutes on each side.  Remove fish from the pan, retaining the oil in the pan, and set aside.

Add the sliced leeks to the pan, and saute gently, stirring from time to time, until they are completely softened - about 5 minutes.

Add the second measure of harissa to the pan, along with the vinegar, cinnamon, a generous pinch of flaky sea salt and plenty of ground black pepper.  Add the water, stir to combine everything well, reduce the heat and simmer gently until you have a fairly thick sauce - about 10 minutes.

Add the honey, rosewater and barberries to the pan and simmer for another minute or two.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Return the fish to the pan, spooning some of the sauce over the top, and simmer gently for a few minutes until the fish is warmed through - add a little more water if your sauce has become too thick.

Remove from heat and sprinkle over the coriander and rose petals.  Serve with plain rice or couscous.

If you would like to get to know Yotam Ottolenghi a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...

IHCC Ottolenghi Leek Badge resized

... or check out Jerusalem and Ottolenghi's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.

Have a look also at what my "Tasting Jerusalem" friends have been doing - you'll find plenty of other great uses for the harissa you now have in your spice cupboard, along with other interesting ingredients as well. (“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest.”)

I'll also be sharing this post at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, and very amusing, Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollam.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge      Weekend Cooking Badge    


  1. That looks divine! I had an Ottolenghi supper last night (from one of his recent Guardian columns) and another planned for tonight (from his TV series). I love him!

  2. That looks fabulous! I've passed this recipe by many times because of the (lack of) rose petals but it's really too delicious sounding to resist, and I do have rosewater and barberries.

  3. Sue - so thrilled to have you cook with us this month and if you had asked me to pick a dish for you, this would have been it! Bravo on your choice and your changes. And I love the ingredients you found at that store. Since you are heading into a colder season - you will really enjoy those limes for stews and soups! Thinking fondly of our coffee and lunch in Mtn View last year and so glad to still be in touch and cooking together virtually until next we meet!

  4. Wow, that is one seriously delicious, lovely looking dish! And with harissa, I can imagine how delicious it is! The rose petals must be really fragrant and makes the dish extra special.
    And so glad that you have discovered a new online supplier that can cater to what you want. I know how it feels like, unable to find some ingredients, and frustrated too. But once we found what we are looking for... yipee...!!! :)

  5. Thanks for the link to Global foods, I'm down to my last half box of David's and Moore Wilsons is out of stock!

  6. This looks so flavoursome and beautiful, Sue. Love your homemade harissa.

  7. your dish looks very exotic and delicious :),

  8. Holy Smokes, what a beautiful dish! I have to admit that Ottolenghi is one of the most inspiring chef/food writers that I am looking at these days. Many many of his ingredients, though, are unavailable in my rural backwater. Hence, I admire from afar and make what I can from my copies of Ottolenghi and Plenty. You have done him proud with this dish, dearie!

  9. First off I am jealous about your nearby Persian foods store! ;-) With this gorgeous and exotic dish you are making me crave both harissa and Ottolenghi! ;-) I still think about his Garlic Soup with Chickpeas and Harissa that I made for the community recipe challenge. I need to make more harissa and get it on some good fish!

  10. Allthough I live at the Baltic Sea I have to admit I am not a fish lover. This dish sounds very interesting with all the ingredients from a foreign countries.

  11. This looks super! When I read "rose petals" I thought of my great-grandmother, whom I barely remember, because she used to make rose petal jam.

  12. I'm with Deb. I am craving both this dish and some time in the kitchen with Ottolenghi! Harissa is one of my all-time favorite condiments. Thanks for reminding me to make a batch. This is an absolutely stunning dish, Sue. It looks gorgeous and flavorful and very mouthwatering.

    I'm not normally the jealous type, but I do have to admit to being jealous about your Persian market and all your wonderful finds. Of course, I should probably look online and I bet I could place an order for some of these exotic ingredients.


  13. Sounds like a tasty dish. I find searching out unique ingredients to be a challenge as well, but most often, well worth the effort.

  14. I love how your panfried fish looks. It reminds me of home when my family all sit down for a hearty meal together. You definitely can't go wrong with Yotam and harissa paste ;)

  15. I've read the cookbook Jerusalem and I have to say that your photos of this incredible dish belong in the cookbook. Just amazing!

  16. You know about my unending love affair with spinach. But did you know that I also have a thing for fish? I am all over this marinating fish in harissa. When I fry fish, I like to soak it in a mixture of milk (or buttermilk) and hot sauce. Of course, this is much more refined/elegant. Thank you for sharing, Sue.


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