Monday, August 22, 2011

Algerian Baked Fish

Algerian Baked fish

Today I came with the intention of telling you about the reason that made me disappear from my blog and fills most of my days, and my heart, with joy, perfumes of orange blossom water and so much bliss. (No, it’s not another baby!) But then, on Saturday, I baked these cute Sea Bass pictured above and they were so amazing, so lip-smacking delicious that I had to tell you about the fish and leave my life for later.

Fish marinade

So straight to the recipe I go, as it’s got to be the best baked fish I have ever made. This time there is no behind the dish story of fish mongers yelling in the middle of the market: “Sardines! Red Mullets! Skates! From the sea to your plates!” or of my mother making irresistible couscous with grouper and inviting the fishermen who brought her the fish to have lunch with us, though I could write pages about my mother’s couscous with fish. No. Instead, I’ll tell you about the fish of this dish, and the potatoes and the caramelized, sweet onions and the sauce, the exquisite sauce and the lucky bread that mopped it all. I’ll tell you about the one pot meal and how it took just minutes to assemble, a few hours forgetting about it in the fridge, a bit more baking in the oven and days of this tasty fish still lingering in our thoughts and stomach.

What makes this dish so unique is the marinade that makes for the flavoring of the fish and vegetables and for the sauce. The marinade is a simple mixture of common spices used in Algerian fish recipes (cumin, paprika, turmeric, ginger) and other delicious things like garlic, parsley, cilantro, tomato paste, lemon juice and olive oil. All of these ingredients are mixed together, poured over the fish and vegetables and left to marinate for a few hours. Meanwhile, you go to your business, lie down on the couch, go out for a walk or even bake a cake for dessert. Sea Bass was what I had and therefore what I used. But many other lucky varieties can bath in this dish and would make a fine substitute: Skate wing, sea bream, red snapper or any other non-oily whole fish. You can also use thick fish fillets.

Baked Algerian Fish

The fish was tender, very fragrant and delicately spiced. The potatoes were creamy and earthy and irresistible especially when you drench them in the sauce, along with one of the onion slices and bring them to your mouth. Heaven, I’m telling you.

And then the next day as the second fish was barely touched and some lonely potatoes and a tiny bit of the sauce was left, I cleaned and crumbled the fish, diced the potatoes even smaller, added some cream, topped the cazuela dish with bread crumbs and herbs and served it along a salad of roasted peppers, Bourek, Harira soup for our Iftar dinner. We ate and ate and the taste of the fragrant dish and the creamy potatoes lingered for another day in our thoughts and stomach.

Ramadan dinner

Algerian Baked Fish:

Recipe: Serves four
- Two whole sea bass cleaned and patted dry from any excess moisture.
- 4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1 inch cubes
- 1 big onion, sliced into rounds
- 1 ripe tomato, sliced into rounds
- ½ preserved lemon (optional, it’s not the same but can use slices of fresh lemon)
- For the marinade:
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 Tbsp chopped parsley and cilantro
- 2 Tbsp freshly ground cumin
- 2 Tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 Tbsp sweet paprika (recommend Spanish, not Hungarian and check if it’s still fresh and haven’t turned rancid)
- The juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- ½ cup water
- Salt, black pepper

Salt and pepper the Sea Bass generously inside and out. Put it in a shallow plate. Put the cubed potatoes and slice onions in a shallow plate as well. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together. Coat the fish generously inside and out with half of the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap. Pour the remaining marinade over the vegetables. Coat well and cover with plastic wrap too. Refrigerate the fish and vegetables and marinate for at least four hours.

Preheat the oven at 400F. Lightly oil a large ovenproof skillet and put the fish, along with the marinade, in the middle. Decorate the top of the fish with slices of tomato and thin sliced of preserved lemon, if using, or fresh vegetables. Arrange the vegetables along with the marinade around the fish. Cover the skillet with foil and bake for 1 hour.

Serve with plenty of bread to mop up the delicious caramelized sauce and slices of fresh lemons to press over the fish.


Unknown said...

I'm looking forward to your post! Yay! :)

Unknown said...

I've missed you. Just sent a link to a friend who lives in Ann Arbor- your pastries look so delicious!

Warda said...

- Opy, Thank you! I've added the recipe and still daydream about it :)

- Rebecca, Thank you for the kind words and the link to your friend! I love every bit of what I do, either in this blog or with my pastries and sharing a slice of my country with people truly is the best part.

mary said...

I look forward to your posts. You make me want to cook AND eat!!!! Can't wait to prepare this fish.
I had a dinner party recently and found in your archives yellow squash fritters with harissa...deelish!!!!
Thank you for your beautiful photos and lovely words.
Ramadan mubarak.

Mike@How To Make A Smoothie At Home said...

Thanks for the tasty looking recipe. Can't wait to try it.

Online Food Menus said...

Thanks a Lot for sharing so yummy Fish Dish ! The tomato dressing is looking beautiful.Its baked so much more healthy & tasty. Cheers !

Karl said...

yummmmmm! love how the tomatoes seem to finish off the preparation. and the fish does look tender by mere appearance.

EllieA said...


The fish looks great. I am in love with your Spicy Greens with Bulgar and my husband bakes your Semolina Bread with so much pleasure.


Warda said...

Thank you all for your kind words!
- Mary, glad you enjoyed the fritters. It's been a while since I made them. Thank you for the good wishes.

- Ellen, that is so sweet of you. And both of them go so well together. I'm so happy to hear that both recipes has now became part of your own life and your own kitchen. That is the beauty of food.

charlotte said...

Here on the West coast (California) we have little bit different fish choices, so I'll try snapper fillets. This looks sooo good. Congratulations on Al Meida! I've always loved your blog and am so happy you're "back."

Warda said...

Thank you Charlotte for your support of my blog and Al Meida! Snapper fillets do sound like a great idea and I hope you will enjoy the recipe. Happy cooking!

Daniel said...

Absolutely glad you're back. I come here often to gaze and borrow your reliably exceptional recipes, and I'm happy your hiatus was only temporary!

Dan @ Casual Kitchen

tasteofbeirut said...

I love all the spices you used here; preserved lemon adds such a depth of flavor too!

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

Delicious! And I'm glad you're life's been so full of bliss. Whenever you're ready to share, it will be a pleasure to read.

Anonymous said...

I woke up this morning thinking about your blog. Yum is an understatement. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I am planning to make this as a special homecoming dish for my husband. He has been visiting family in Russia for the past couple of weeks. Do you think thick halibut fillets would work? We're in the Pacific Northwest so halibut is a staple and one of our non-oily fish choices.

Thank you Warda! good to see you back. I love your recipes.

Warda said...

- Anonymous, Thank you! Halibut fillets would work perfectly as long as the fillets are thick and to lay some of the onions underneath the fillets so they don't stick to the baking dish! Enjoy and happy cooking! :)

Fran Amenábar Ch. said...

You have a really nice blog. Now i'm a follower.
Greetings from Chile.

Mona said...

Looks awesome!

a. said...

hi warda,

i love your blog. i just discovered it. your writing is so beautiful, so evocative, and your recipes look delicious! i have a ridiculous obsession with mediterranean/north african/middle-eastern cooking, but the real homestyle cooking, not something at a restaurant or whatever - so i feel so excited to have found your blog!

do you know much about/can you answer a question about tunisian food? i came here i think via a search for a recipe for a type of tunisian sandwich, that i had when i was in tunis many years ago (i visited morocco too, wanted to visit algeria but wasn't able to!). it's probably just regular street food, except i didn't have anything like it anywhere else in tunisia, or in morocco. and i don't know if it goes by a particular name, so i don't know how to search for it. it was like a tunisian-style pan bagnat - ie it had tuna, boiled egg, olives, capers, the bread was soaked with a tasty dressing. but it was so much better than any pan bagnat i've had. i got it at a sandwich place where you could add a huge variety of options - i remember a lot of roasted veggies (zucchini, eggplant, etc). it also had harissa, preserved lemon, probably other things - so many ingredients! anyway, i wonder if something similar is eaten in algeria? am i making any sense? do you know what it might be called?

in any case, thanks for sharing your recipes, stories, and memories here! you have a new blog reader here. :-)

beti said...

I'm glad you returned, the bass looks really good!

mima said...

coucou Warda !
je viens de lire le dernier commentaire d'une personne anonyme qui dit avoir beaucoup apprecie un sandwich qu'elle a mangé en Tunisie,j'ai reconnu de suite ,çà se vend dans la rue,c'est tres prisé des tunisiens et tres typique aussi,ce sont de petits pains ovales,a partir d'une pate levée,comme les beignets,frits dans la poele,puis coupés dans la longueur et remplis au choix avec:purée de pommes de terre,oeufs brouillés,olives noires hachées,des capres et surtout ...l'inévitable HARISSA !! çà se mange à n'importe quelle heure de la journée ,mème très tot le matin avant d'aller au boulot et a l'école.
alors çà s'appelle "des fricassés".
voilà pour l'information ...Biz !

Warda said...

a, Thank you and welcome! so I was going to tell you that though I didn't know this sandwich, since not available in Algeria, I did some google search through some French written blogs that led me to the answer...then my mother, who goes by the name of "mima, commented right after reading your comment and gave me more info.(she was in Tunis this years for a week or so, so she is more familiar with the region than I am) Thank you mama! So, a, the sandwich is called fricassé and what makes it different from other pan-pagnat is that the dough that makes the bread is actuaaly fried instead of being baked like regular bread, which makes softer and juicier in taste. Like you mentioned, it can be filled with hard boiled eggs, olives, capers, boiled potatoes, scrambled eggs, and most of all Harissa. My mother also wrote that it is so popular in Tunis that people even eat it for breakfast before going to school or work. There are some recipes out there, most of them in French but you can always use google translate: As for me, both you and my mother made me salivate and I want to try and make this sandwich this week. :) Happy cooking. Let me know if you do try it. If I try it, I will post about it here.

a. said...

oooh thank you warda for researching this for me, i really appreciate it! i did not think to try french blogs... of course! and thank you for your mother's help, too! i would love to hear if you try it. i may as well... i'll have to gather up the right ingredients so it may take me a bit of time (i once purchased a harissa that wasn't very good - i need to find a good one).

Frances Klein said...

Made this recipe last night. The fish cooked perfectly and was delicious. Sadly, my potatoes and onions did not cook enough. Crunchy potatoes and slightly raw onions. Maybe I will try the recipe again and cook the potatoes and onions for a while before adding the fish.

Warda said...

Imposter, it depends also on the type of potatoes you used and how small you cut them. Yukon gold potatoes are my favorite all purpose baking potatoes as they bake pretty fast as for the onion, if you slice them thin enough there shouldn't be a problem.