Fish Tagine

Julia Zaher

1½ hours

4-6 Servings

Fish Tagine: fish baked with tahini
Fish Tagine. Photo by Ariel Efron

In Palestinian communities, fish cooked in tahini is typically called siniya. Lana Zaher and her mother Julia, who own the Al Arz Tahini company, refer to this recipe as a fish tagine in their family. It can be made from scratch or “If there’s fish leftover from last night’s dinner, use it to make this dish,” says Julia. It should be eaten with your hands with pita on the side to swipe up the sauce. The tahini sauce, fried onions, and fish can all be prepared in advance and kept separately in the refrigerator. An hour before baking, take out the elements of the dish and allow them to reach room temperature

The tahini sauce, fried onions and fish can all be prepared in advance and kept separately in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature 1 hour before baking.

This recipe was served in the Flavours from the Library event with Lana Zaher and her mother Julia.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 large onions (2.2lb / 1kg) peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 seabass or gilt-head bream fish fillets (weighing a total of 1.7lb / 750 grams), with the skin, halved and boned
  • For the tahini sauce:
  • 1 cup raw tahini
  • ⅔ cup water
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt
  • To serve:
  • A handful of finely chopped parsley 
  • Pita

Preparation

  1. Heat ½ cup olive oil in a large deep skillet over a medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté for about 45 minutes until deeply golden, stirring occasionally. Do not speed up the caramelization process; the onions should be golden-brown, soft, and sweet. Remove from the heat, but leave the onions in the pan. Season with salt and black pepper, mix lightly and let cool for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the tahini sauce: Mix the tahini, water, lemon juice and a little salt into a smooth, thin tahini sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary (it is important the tahini is well seasoned).
  3. Pour the tahini over the onions, season with allspice, cinnamon, and a pinch of black pepper, mix and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Cook while continuously stirring until the mixture thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove from the heat.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200 °C on the grill setting.
  5. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a separate skillet over high heat. Season the fish with salt and black pepper and, starting with the skin side facing down, sear 30 seconds on each side. The fish should not be fully cooked at this point.
  6. Assemble the dish: Arrange the fillets in a single layer in a large deep baking tray. Pour the tahini over the fish and top with the fried onions. Roast in the center of the oven until the tahini is set and golden, about 15 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle the parsley on top and serve warm with pitas.

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