Fish in the Style of Jimli
The original recipe’s translation is as follows from A Collection of Medieval and Renaissance Cookbooks, pp. A-52/An anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the Thirteenth Century
Take a fish, such as sarda (pilchard) or tardanis (red mullet) or some good fish like them; scale, slice and plunge into boiling water. Take out immediately and wash with cold water. Arrange in the tajine and throw in vinegar and a little murri naqui, pepper, saffron, cinnamon, spikenard, galingale and a little mastic, citron leaves and pulped prunes soaked in vinegar; scatter over it (fish) chopped almonds and garlic cloves wrapped in sprigs of thyme and plenty of oil; put in a moderate oven and leave until the sauce is dry and the top browns, then leave a while and take out. And you might make this dish in a pot instead of a tajine in the oven.
Ingredients that will be needed:
1 side of salmon (or 4 pieces of Talapia) 1/3 cup vinegar
½ tsp cracked pepper corns
¼ C. soy sauce ¼ C. Sesame oil (black sesame oil was used)
¼ tsp saffron ¼ tsp cinnamon 1 tsp galingale
1/3 C. pine nuts ½ C. chopped almonds 1 handful chopped garlic cloves
1 C. chopped prunes soaked in apple cider vinegar
Sprigs of thyme (optional)
Take fish (in this case Salmon) cut into hand sized pieces and dip into boiling water for 15-30 seconds or until the skin turns pink. If the fish falls apart as it is being lifted from the water, then it has been over cooked. There is no explanation as to why fish is to be boiled first; however it could be do to cleaning of impurities if fresh or removing of salt if the fish were salted instead of fresh. Place into tajine or pot and then sprinkle the listed ingredients over. Cook until the soy sauce and oil are reduced.
I first decided to try this dish with a firm fleshed fish i.e. Salmon. Talapia would work just as well. The original fillet was roughly 2 lbs and about 18” long. I then cut the fish into 3 sections, roughly the size of my palm so that I could dip the pieces into a pot of boiling water easily as well as to control portion sizes. Sorry no pictures of the fish.
These are the total spices, garlic, prunes and vinegar used.
The spices were sprinkles on top of the fish while the soy sauce and oil were splashed on top of the fish and underneath (to prevent burning and sticking to the clay pot.
Black sesame oil was used though the light sesame oil could have been substituted for a lighter less strong flavor with out damaging the over all taste. My preference is to use sesame oil (either light or dark) for Middle Eastern cooking as I believe it is as authentic as olive oil with a more complex nutty taste.
Sesame Oil – “From Sesamum Indicum has competed with olive oil in India and the Mediterranean basin since ancient times. It ha an excellent flavour, rather like roasted hazelnuts.” (Toussaint-Samat, pg. 220).
The pine nuts (unchopped) with the chopped almonds and garlic were sprinkled on top. The recipe did not say to chop the garlic cloves. I did this as this ingredient was included specifically with “chopped almonds”. I believe the translation to mean both of these items to be chopped not just the almonds.
The problem with the ingredients list is that the fish really should have been the entire side of salmon and not just 1/3. However since I really love the tasted of the roasted prunes and nuts in this sauce I cooked the extra. O h my did I have extra! This was a case of my eyes were to big for my cooking! What I should have done was decrease the ingredients by about 1/3 to 1/2 for a better mix of fish to sauce.
Over all the blending of the flavors is savory with a slight sweetness from the prunes which brings the entire dish together, a very nice seasoning for fish.