The culinary arts were known to be highly evolved in ancient Persia. The history of this region’s cuisine can be traced back to the 6th Century BCE when Cyrus the Great established the Persian empire. The foods in the royal courts of Persia included elaborate stews flavoured with exotic spices and herbs like cinnamon, saffron and mint; tender roasted meats; and preparations of fish stuffed with spices, fruits and vegetables. In today’s post, we will be preparing one such regal dish – a richly flavoured Persian-style Tamarind-Stuffed Fish.
This dish came to India when a tribe called the Pars emigrated from Persia and came to India, settling in small groups along the western coast. These people were called the Parsis and they brought with them an array of traditional Persian recipes which they customised using ingredients and spices that were available in India. We will be making the Indian version of this ancient and exotic Persian dish.
In this recipe, the tang of tamarind combines with the juicy flavour of barberries to create a delightful experience for your taste buds. Here are the ingredients that you will require.
Fish (Trout): 4
Onion: 1, large
Barberries (Daruhaldi Ka Phal): 100 grams
Mustard Oil: 6 tablespoons
Tamarind (Imli) Paste: 50 grams
Garlic (Lasun): 4 cloves
Coriander (Dhania) Leaves: 100 grams
Lemon (Nimbu): 2
Black Pepper Powder: to taste
Salt: to taste
For the trout, there are many varieties that you can find in India, depending on where you are located. Rainbow Trout can be found in the streams of Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. Brown Trout can be found in the streams of South India. Trout Barb (also known as Indian Trout) is found in the freshwaters around the Bay of Bengal. And if you are unable to find trout, you may use any river boneless fish that can be filleted.
The quantities mentioned above are for preparing four servings with each plate containing one fish. Adjust the quantities proportionately to suit the number of servings that you require.
Wash, clean and butterfly the trout. Butterflying is a technique of filleting in which the bone is removed from the middle, leaving behind the complete fish as a single fillet instead of two fillets. The head and the tail are left intact to hold the fish together during the cooking process. In this recipe, the butterflying technique also enables you to insert the stuffing easily.
Peel, wash and thinly slice the onion.
Soak the barberries in warm water for around 30 minutes. Then drain the water and keep the barberries aside.
Peel, wash and finely chop the garlic cloves.
Finely chop the coriander leaves.
Cut the lemons into small wedges. These will be used to prepare the final dish for serving.
Heat the Mustard Oil in a pan on a High flame. Wait for a little while till the oil reaches its smoking point and streams of white smoke begin to rise from the surface of the oil. Then reduce the flame to Medium. Carefully, remove three tablespoons of oil from the pan and keep aside.
To the oil remaining in the pan, add the onion and sauté till the onion slices turn brown in colour. Continue to sauté till the onion turns dark brown and gets caramelized.
Now add the barberries, tamarind paste and garlic, and continue to sauté for around 10 minutes. Then turn the flame off and gently stir the chopped coriander leaves into the mixture. The stuffing for your dish is now ready.
Take the fish and season each fillet with black pepper powder and salt. This process works better if the black pepper powder that you are using is freshly ground. Next, divide the stuffing into four equal portions and stuff each butterflied trout with a portion of stuffing. Use the remaining three tablespoons of Mustard Oil (that you had set aside earlier) to brush the four fillets.
Heat the oven to 375o F (190o C). Grease two baking sheets. Place the stuffed trout fillets in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then change the oven setting to ‘Broil’ and cook till the skin of the trout turns golden brown. This should take around three minutes. Then remove the trout from the oven.
Arrange the fillets on four plates – one trout per plate – and decorate with lemon wedges.
Your Persian-style Tamarind-Stuffed Fish is now ready. Serve it with a simple tomato and cucumber salad, or mashed potatoes, or coleslaw. In Persia (and among the Parsis of India) this was one of the traditional delicacies used to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian new year. The Parsis celebrate it as Navroz. And now you can join the celebrations too!
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