07 May 2012

Recipe a Day: Iraqi? Fish with Tomato and Tamarind

I think it's likely that this is from Iraq, although I'm not sure, and if it is, I don't know which ethnic group it would be from.  It's still good no matter where it's from.

This should be cooked in something like a cast-iron skillet.  But I don't have one so I use what's pictured here.  It's not ideal, but it works.  Since you probably have a skillet or frying pan, it's not a big deal.

I'm not picky about what fish you use for this.  I generally use tilapia because I can get it in fillets here.  I could buy a whole live fish, but I'm not there yet.

This is really quick and easy.  It can also be baked at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes instead of covered and simmered at the end.  I simmer because it takes longer for the oven to heat up than the actually cooking time.  And baking makes the house hotter. 

I always serve this with rice.  The cucumbers I'll hopefully post tomorrow are really good with it too.

Here's what you'll need:

1 tablespoon tamarind paste
Oil- use what you have- you can use just a little, or more if you like
One large chopped onion
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp turmeric (you can use other spices too, or a mix- some options are cumin or curry powder)
3 tomatoes
3/4 tsp salt
1 pound fish fillets

You'll need to start with your tamarind paste.  This is something I haven't found here, but it's easy to bring a block of tamarind if you're moving someplace where you might not be able to find it.  My mother brought this block when she visited a year ago.  It lasts a long time in the fridge if you keep it wrapped in plastic.  I usually go through it more quickly, but there are a lot of recipes I use it in that I can't make here very well, so I haven't used it as much this year.  Anyway, cut off about a one-tablespoon hunk of paste (just guess). 

And put it in a couple tablespoons of hot water.  The hotter the water, the quicker it will soften.  You can stick in in the microwave for a bit if you're in a rush or if you forgot to get it softening soon enough.

Heat the oil and add the onions and cook for a few minutes.

The garlic is beautiful and fresh here again.  Here's what it looks like when I buy it now. 

And there are the fresh cloves.  It's so much easier to peel recently-picked garlic because the skins are soft.  Chop up the garlic.

When the onions have cooked for a few minutes, add the garlic with the turmeric or other spices.

And cook for a couple more minutes. It'll stick more at this point, so pay attention.

Thinly slice one of your tomatoes so you have 4-6 slices. 

Set the slices aside and dice the rest of the tomatoes.

And add them to the onions after they've cooked a few more minutes.

It's time to add the tamarind when you add the tomatoes.  Here's how.  You see the paste has softened quite a bit.  Hold a fine strainer or sieve over your pot.

And dump the tamarind.

Use a spoon to mash the paste.  Keep mashing till you just have stringy stuff and seeds.

Most of the tamarind will end up on the bottom of your strainer, so don't forget to scrape that off.

Add the salt, then stir and simmer for a few minutes to let the tomatoes cook down a bit.

Then lay your fish over the top.

And sprinkle with salt and red pepper.

Lay the tomato slices over the top (if you're using a frying pan, you'll want more slices), then cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, or till the fish is just cooked.

And serve.

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