This is locally caught Massachussets flounder. It is a flat fish and related to sole, turbot, plaice, halibut and the like. You can see the eyes on top of the head and it lives on the bottom of the ocean. A bottom-dweller, if you will. Flounder does not have the reputation of Dover sole but it is delicious. Besides, it is a whole lot less expensive. I want to cook it whole. I just need to trim some fins first. This fish weights about 1.5 pounds. If you have never cooked whole fish or fish on the bone and you love eating fish, you have no idea how good it is and it is a whole lot easier than you think.
I want to cook the fish in the Saudi Arabian style of al Kabsa. Traditionally, either chicken or lamb or were cooked al Kabsa and it is regarded as the national dish. Chicken cooked with rice or lamb cooked with rice. Sometimes goat and camel too. But rarely, if ever, fish. As a cook who enjoys geography, this led me into thinking that a land like Saudi Arabia, a peninsula, a land surrounded by three bodies of water, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and everybody’s favourite, the Arabian Gulf or Persian Gulf. There is a lot of fish in those waters but they rarely get a mention. I realise that there is no flounder in the Indian Ocean but there must be another flat fish. A cousin, so to speak.
Al Kabsa refers to the spice blend used so the range of spices or the recipe can vary from cook to cook. Coriander, cinammon, saffron, cumin, clove, allspice. black pepper, ginger to name a few. Although I bought my al Kabsa blend, you could make it at home. If I took any liberties, I added thyme, green cardomom pods, curry leaves and the black spherical item in the photo,dried lemon (loomi in Arabic). The dried lemon is ground up and is also a spice in the classic al Kabsa blend. I sweated onion, garlic and fresh ginger in olive oil, added some al Kabsa spices, cooked it a few minutes. added whole, canned tomatoes. I used Muir Glen brand of organic tomatoes and added a pinch of sugar. American tomatoes are not as sweet as old country ones. They are more acidic. Adding a pinch of sugar takes the edge off of the tomatoes. Just ask any Sicilian grand-mother.
Roasted cauliflower with Aleppo pepper. The first mention of cauliflower dates back to the 12th century and it was the Arabs who introduced it
Brown Basmati rice pilaf, al Kabsa style, with tomato and carrot. Traditionally, the rice was cooked in the same pot as the chicken or lamb. I cooked mine separately. I used a brown rice which takes 45 minutes to cook. My fish will need about 20 minutes.
Looks like we are done, al Kabsa style. For the record, al Kabsa can also be spelled as al Khabseh and a couple of other variations in between, depending on your accent. That is most likely the reason that there are so many twists to the recipe.
Salad is a traditional complement to the al Khabseh experience. I added arugala, or jajeera in Arabic, to the roasted cauliflower. I dressed everything with a lemon-cumin vinaigrette. Jajeera should not be confused with media outlet, al Jazeera.
After all that I’m exhausted. Where would we all be……..if it was’nt for go-go juice. Yemenese coffee is a dying breed, unfortunately
Serious coffee drinkers will appreciate this one from Yemen. Definitely an heirloom coffee and soon it will not be available. Buy it while you can. Mocca means mocha. Sanani means that it comes from the area around the capital city, Sana’a. In Arabic, the expression “fellaheen” translates as a poor agricultural worker or peasant. Like I always say, eat like a peasant.