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Baked Fish with Sumac Stuffing

(Samak Mashwi bil Summaq)
From  Kitab al-Tabikh (Baghdad Cookery Book) by Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Baghdadi
Serves: 4

1 to 2kg whole fish, such as drum fish, barramundi, grey mullet or gilt-head sea bream (you may need 4 fish, depending on the size)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

For the stuffing:
1/2 cup sumac
1/4 cup fresh za’atar or thyme
1/2 teaspoon each of coriander, cumin, and cinnamon
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 3 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 220C (450F).

Place all of the stuffing ingredients in a food processor and process into a paste, as pictured above. Add more water, if needed.

Cut 2 to 3 diagonal slits in the fish and rub the oil and the turmeric on the outside and inside of the fish. Stuff the fish with the sumac mixture and close the incision in the fish with kitchen string, tooth picks, or the silicon ties as shown in the picture above.

Place the fish on a roasting rack and bake in the second level of the oven for about 20 minutes or until the fish is flaky. Cooking time will vary according to the size of the fish.

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