This time of a year is not called the festive season for nothing: there are so many reasons for celebrations such as Christmas, of course, Chanukkah, the end of yet another year, New Year night - to name just the few. And it is in the spirit of the season that we go out of our way to delight our friends and families with carefully chosen gifts and scrumptious meals. Here is the menu that I have chosen to impress my guests. You can find this menu and other entertaining ideas by clicking on the "Entertainment" page.
I am sure I could speak for most of the cooks here that we all have our signature dishes, the ones that our guests enjoy and praise the most, the ones that we love cooking time and time again or on the other hand cook for special occasions only and feel very protective if another cook asks us for the recipe. Want to know what mine is? It is a whole salmon cooked on the barbecue and served with yogurt and tahina paste and garnished with fresh herbs and spices. This dish is my secret weapon to impress my guests and win their tick of approval.
Add fresh oysters and beetroot salad for the entree and chocolate pots served individually in an espresso cup for dessert and you have got a perfect menu for entertaining your family and friends during the festive season.
For 8-10 people you will need:
One whole fish approx 2 -2.5 kg (scaled and cleaned without the head)
100 grm tahina paste
200 grm of natural yogurt
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 cloves of garlic
½ cup of chopped dill
½ cup of chopped mint
½ cup of chopped coriander
1 medium red chili de-seeded (optional)
½ cup of chopped walnuts
Juice of 2 lemons
If the fish is heavier then I need, I ask the fishmonger to cut it in half along the spine into two halves. So I can still cook one half, just reduce the cooking time to fifteen minutes. As for the other half, I ask him to portion it into fillets that I will freeze and cook at another time. And when I am serving the fish, if I only have a half I put it on the plate flat side down.
You can cook the fish in an oven but I find it that the BBQ option is more flavoursome and it is also prevents my kitchen from smelling like a fishmonger’s shop for days.
Preheat the BBQ to 180º C. Clean the fish and pat it dry. Cut 2 pieces of tinfoil about twice the length of the fish and spread them on the kitchen bench slightly overlapping each other. Repeat the same process with baking paper and place it on top of the tinfoil. Sprinkle the paper with extra virgin olive oil, season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides, place a bunch of fresh aromatic herbs inside the cavity (whatever you can find: dill, parsley, coriander). Place the fish diagonally on top of the baking paper and wrap it tightly as if it were a baby, tucking in all the edges. Place the parcel on a baking tray and put on the BBQ grill and close the the lid. Cook with the lid down for 20 minutes on each side for medium rare maintaining the temperature at 180º C. Bring inside and open up the foil to prevent further cooking.
While the fish is cooking, prepare the paste by mixing tahina with yogurt, crushed garlic and lemon juice into a smooth consistency. Next, chop coriander, walnuts, red onion, red chili, and mint and mix them all together, add lemon juice, a splash of olive oil, salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
Going back to the fish – gently scrape the skin off the fish, it actually removes very easily, then running a spoon along the spine remove the gray jelly-like fat. Carefully transfer the fish onto a plate leaving the foil and paper behind. Spread the paste on one side of the fish covering as much of the fish as it permits and spoon the salad over the paste pressing it lightly together.
Serve with young boiled potatoes.