Monday, October 6, 2008

Tajen Samak bi Tahen

My favourite local Lebanese store has finally started selling Tahini. I have been using it exclusively for making home-made houmous. I shopped there earlier this week to buy another tub and chick-peas, and Fred (yes that is really his name) on the till asked me if I had ever tried fish with a tahini sauce ... I never have. “Delicious” he says. So I go home and dig out Alan Davidson's "Mediterranean Seafood" - there are two Lebanese recipes for white-fish served with a tahini sauce. In the first, "Tajen Samak bi Tahen", a good whitefish, such as a grouper, is baked in a the tahini sauce consisting of lemon, salt, water and tahini. It is accompanied by rice cooked with onion and pine-nut kernels, The second recipe, "Samkeh Mechwiyeh and Tartor Sauce with Pine-nut Kernels", bakes the same fish, but serves it with a separate tahini sauce and can be served hot or cold. In this the pine-kernels are pounded into the tahini sauce.

I bought the pine-kernels on Thursday – fuckin' hell 10 Euros for 100 grammes!

On Saturday Hamilton and I went shopping for fish - I was looking for merou (grouper) or maybe barracuda - after scouring the fish-market (slowly - chock-a-block on a Saturday morning) unsuccessfully - there were only sailfish, tuna family (yes your mouth is watering - but the taste of tahini must not be overwhelmed by the fish - it must have white meat) or "poor" fish, so we went down to the small quay on the city's bay where the middle-sized fishing business' (small trawlers or motorised 10m open fibreglass boats as opposed to a dug-out tree trunk) sell their catch. No merou or barracuda. So I dubiously bought an "alada" - an amberjack (of which Alan Davidson tells me there are are various around the world) - it has a yellow stripe along its side. Then off to Fred's shop to buy some good rice rather than EU/Japan rice rubbish-bin rice found on the market! Fred recommended a 5 kg bag of Egyptian rice but it was short-grain and clearly meant for paellas and risottos (there was an illustration of a prawn on the packaging) so I opted for a 2 kg bag of Pakistani Basmati rice (packaged in Lebanon in a rather nice cloth bag with a zip). Hamilton really couldn't understand why I was spending good money on such expensive rice, rice being rice after all, but I wasn't going to be a spendthrift on EU or Japanese rice-mountain rice when I was spending a fortune on tahini and olive oil. Hamilton cleaned and filleted the fish and then I followed Alan Daividson's instructions as best I could. It was superb! But I burnt the pine-nuts!


Lauren said...


I'm not sure why, but this story of your meal, and the expense and effort that went into making it, just delighted me. Thank you for sharing such a glimpse.


Lauren said...

Oh, and it made me hungry too.

Angus said...

Try it!