Baked Fish with Spicy Sesame Sauce - How to make a Delicious Fish Harra with Tahini

Spicy fish or “fish harra where harra stands for spicy” is a traditional dish cooked differently throughout the various Lebanese regions. The version that I have comes from Tripoli, the capital of the North. By no means I can take any credit for it. It’s from my mum’s first (and only) cookbook; the one she got when she got married, like thirty years ago! To be fair to the taste, I wouldn’t have named the sauce spicy; because it just isn’t! Maybe by increasing the red pepper flakes it would become, but as it is originally, I would describe it as garlicky, tahini-like with a hint of coriander. Spicy or not, it is so good and I don’t change a thing to the original recipe except using less oil and roasting the nuts instead of frying (obviously)!
raw fish
Fish harra is actually a spicy fish, which is a conventional dish, prepared all over Lebanon. The recipe that I am going to share here is from Tripoli.

Not at all, I want to take any appreciation for this recipe. In fact, it is taken from my mother’s foremost cookbook, which was presented to her about thirty years back at the time of marriage.

I should not say the sauce or tahini spicy as it is not! Perhaps it would become by adding some flakes of red pepper, but in its real form, I would say it garlicky with a touch of coriander.

Whether or not it is spicy, it’s so tasty that I will not be changing the original recipe. Only I will roast the nuts in place of frying and will use less oil.

Last week, when I was with my friends, I cooked the complete fish. I was so engaged in talking and eating that I did not remember to take snaps until only tail and head was left!

However, the fish was super delicious and I suggest you try with complete fish.

But for ease and time saving, you are free to try with fillets that I had a day later to intake the remaining tahini.

After purchasing the fish, I have it cleaned from inside and asked the fish seller to make a few cuts on both sides of the fish skin.

After soaking the fish in olive oil and salt, I put in few garlic cloves inside of the cuts.

I spread a bale of parsley on the foil of aluminum (you can also use thyme, oregano, or both), put few lemon slices, and then put the fish over it.

I further filled the fish with additional parsley, few leaves of bay and cloves of garlic, few slices of lemon, poured white wine (you can also use water), and then packed the aluminum foil.

Then I roasted it in the oven for forty-five minutes in a 200-degree Celsius heat. The roasting time depends on the largeness of the fish. The fish that I took was for 6 people and weighing about 2.5 kgs. 

As I mentioned before, we had some leftover sauce, so two days later I baked a couple of fish fillets so that I can share the recipe with you. I just seasoned them with salt, black pepper and olive oil, topped them with lemon slices and a bay leaf. I didn’t seal the foil this time.
Mediterranean fish recipe
Earlier, as I stated that some sauce was left, therefore, a day later I roasted few fillets of the fish to finish it up.

This time I didn’t use the aluminum foil but filled the fillets with bay leaf, lemon slices, olive oil, black pepper, and salt.

Recipe for making sauce for six people

Garlic cloves (10)
Grounded coriander (2 tbsp)
Thinly chopped medium-sized onion (1)
Lemon juice (1 cup)
Sesame paste, Tahini (1 cup)
Water (2 cups)
Salt (1 tbsp)
Red pepper shavings (1/4 tsp)
Black pepper (1/2 tsp)
Crushed walnuts (1/2 cup) (optional)
Toasted pine nuts (1/4 cup)
Toasted almonds blanched (1/4 cup) (optional)

Mash the garlic and coriander together. In a small skillet, heat a teaspoon of canola oil and saute the onion until translucent. Combine lemon juice, tahini, water and salt in a sauce pan and whisk until smooth. Heat the tahini mixture, stirring constantly, until it starts to boil. Lower the heat and leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes until small drops of sesame oil show on the surface and the mixture has thickened up a bit. Add the garlic and coriander mixture, the onions, the peppers and walnuts if using. Stir for a minute and remove off the heat. Spoon the sauce over the fish and sprinkle with the pine nuts and almonds. Serve and enjoy it hot!
Baked Fish with Spicy Sesame Sauce
Now, take coriander and garlic and mash them together. Take canola oil (1 tsp) and heat it and fry the onion till it starts glowing.  

In the saucepan, mix well the water, salt, tahini, and lemon juice. Boil this tahini solution and don’t forget to stir it continuously.  

Now, lower the heat down and keep up occasional stirring for 5-10 minutes by the time of thickening of the mixture and showing up of tiny sesame oil drops.  

Put the walnuts, peppers, onions, and the mixture of coriander and garlic.

Remove it from the heat after stirring it for a minute. Pour this tahini on the fish and spread some almonds and pine nuts. Enjoy and serve it while it is hot!

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