Spicy Fish with Tahini Walnut Sauce

Bachelor Chow Honors Class – Spicy Fish with Tahini-Walnut Sauce

Another Sunday night cooking for myself.  So I made a trip to the an Asian grocer nearby and picked up a piece of fish, thinking I could do something Thai or Chinese… maybe something steamed, healthy-like. I need to cook more fish, not just for health, but for the experience — Sue doesn’t eat fin-fish, and if I’m ever going to win Chopped Home Cook Edition, I’d better be able to filet a fish.  So today’s challenge ingredient is…. Flounder.

Paging through my cookbooks, nothing really thrilled me, and I felt like I was settling for a red curry in David Thompson’s Thai Food. So between shopping and dinner I was watching the food network, and Guy Fieri was at a Morrocan place in the middle of nowhere, and I said to myself, “OK, let’s find something North African or Middle Eastern.”  The book I ended up using is May Bsisu’s “The Arab Table”, the recipe Samakeh Harra Bi Tahini. I’m glad I found something in here, because this is a cookbook that I’ve mainly used for one dish: “Kibbeh in the Tray” which is a knockout party dish.  It always feels lousy to have a whole cookbook for just one dish, but it happens all the time.

This dish is designed for celebration – it serves 10 in the original version with a 4-6 pound fish.  It took me almost 90 minutes of work to put it together. I tried to scale it down by 5, thinking I’d have enough fish for dinner and lunch, but by the time I filleted the fish, it was only one serving.  I ended up with a lot of the tahini-walnut sauce left over… but I’m sure it’ll work well on grilled chicken or something, because it’s delicious.

In afterthought, I should probably have done rolls of the flounder filets, rather than trying to stack, and cook for much less time, and with less liquid — it came out rather mushy. I’ve adjusted the time here. If it wasn’t for the elaborate sauce that’s prepared while the fish is cooking, I’d suggest assembling in parchment and microwaving or steaming, but you’ve got the time here to cook in the oven.

Recipe: Spicy Fish with Tahini-Walnut Sauce


About 11 oz (320g) of flounder
Juice of 1 meyer lemon
2 clove garlic, minced (actually, grated on a microplane)
1/3 of a jalapeno chile, minced
large pinch salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped cilantro
large pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) cumin
1/4 tsp (1.25ml) coriander
pinch of ground cardamom
1 Tbs (15ml) olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 400F / 205F
  2. Skin and filet the fish, as specified in The Joy of Cooking.
    I hope the new editions still say how.  In my case, skinning was a pain in the neck, since the tail and fins had been removed. But I persevered.
    Skinned, some meat recovered from the skin
    skinned flounder
    Fileted – most of the chopped stuff on the right I scraped from between the ribs, but overall, not too bad for a first attempt
  3. Rub filets with the cut, juiced meyer lemon, sprinkle with salt and pepper
  4. Arrange the filets into two rectangular portions in a double layer of heavy duty foil in a deep baking dish. I used the scraped bits as ‘glue’ between the pieces.
    arranged filets
  5. Combine the garlic, salt, jalapeno, red pepper flakes, cardamom, cumin, coriander, black pepper and cilantro, mix well
  6. Spread mixture over half of the filets, and drizzle half of the meyer lemon juice over it
    filled fish
  7. Flip the other half of the filets on top of the filling, drizzle with the rest of the lemon juice and the olive oil
    assembled fish
  8. Seal the foil well, and add about 1 cup of hot water to the pan.  Bake for 30 minutes (I baked for 45, it was too much)
    wrapped parcel

Tahini-Walnut Sauce

2 cloves garlic
1/3 tsp (3.3 ml) salt
1/2 tsp sambal or equivalent minced red chile
2 Tbs (30 ml) olive oil
5 oz (150ml) chopped cilantro
1/2 C (120ml) walnuts
1/2 C (120ml) tahini
Juice of 1 lemon

  1. Combine the garlic, salt, sambal/chile
    cilantro, garlic, salt, chile
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium pan on high heat, and saute cilantro and garlic mixture until most of the liquid is gone, about 3-5 minutes
    wilted cilantro
  3. Grind the walnuts fine (I used my spice grinder)
  4. Back in the same pan, add the tahini, lemon juice and about 1/2 cup water, then add cooked cilantro mixture. On medium-high heat, cook until the oil begins to separate and it thickens somewhat
    tahini sauce before cooking
  5. Stir in the walnuts, off the heat. Taste for salt and lemon juice.
  6. When the fish is cooked, plate carefully
    cooked fish
  7. Spread sauce over the top, garnish with cilantro and a walnut half. Served here with whole wheat Israeli couscous (1/3 of a red pepper, julienned, some chopped fresh spinach, both sauteed in a pot. Add 1/3 C couscous, 2/3 C boiling water, cook for 8 minutes)