Whole Fish With Pomegranate Molasses. Photo by Shani Brill
On my family’s Rosh Hashanah table, we did not have a special dish tied to the blessing, “May it be that we be filled with good deeds as the pomegranate is full of seeds,” but there were always pomegranates at the meal. On the morning of the Seder the aunties would all sit down and transform the season’s juicy pomegranates into a mound of rubies that we would eat just like that. “Just like that” meaning drizzled with honey, of course.
This recipe uses pomegranate molasses. I usually purchase a fine one during my travels in Turkey, but this year was my first attempt at making it at home and I really liked the result. In the absence of a pomegranate juicer, I followed the method for making Persian charoset for Pesach and squeezed the pomegranates, passed the seeds through the meat grinder, strained the juice to get rid of any chunks, and reduced it. Alternatively, you can make the process simpler by purchasing freshly pressed pomegranate juice or buying high quality pomegranate molasses (look for bottles without any added sugar). This time of the year, nearing Rosh Hashanah, is the perfect time to add pomegranate molasses to your pantry, for future use in the year to come.
3 liters / 3 quarts freshly squeezed pomegranate juice or 1 cup / 240ml high-quality pomegranate molasses
6 ½ lb / 3 kg white saltwater fish (such as meagre, grouper, sea bream, or sea bass), whole
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
½ chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground caraway
½ cup / 60 ml olive oil
1 cup chopped cilantro
½ cup chopped mint leaves
Prepare the pomegranate molasses: Pour the pomegranate juice into a wide heavy pot over medium heat. Cook until the juice is reduced to a thick syrup, about 2-3 hours. The reduction time depends on the width and quality of the pot, but do not rush this process and be sure to keep an eye on it; reducing it too much will result in a burnt-sugar aftertaste.
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C. While the oven is warming up, place the fish in a greased baking pan, and use a sharp knife to score 3- 4 cuts on each side. Season the fish generously with salt and black pepper on both sides, from head to tail, as well as inside the abdomen. Brush the fish with the pomegranate molasses, sprinkle grounded coriander seeds, chili powder, and caraway seeds and drizzle the olive oil on top.
Sprinkle about two thirds of the chopped herbs on top (Note: you can also add yellow Barhi dates, see recipe).
Roast in the oven. If using several fish each weighing up to 1.5 lb / 700 grams roast for about 18 minutes. If using larger fish, you may need to add several additional minutes of roasting time. Sprinkle the remaining chopped herbs on top and serve.