Samkeh Harrah is specialty of Tripoli, a coastal city north of Beirut and Lebanon’s second largest city. The fish is served at room temperature, making it an ideal dish to include in a cold buffet or summer meal. Any of the following fish are suitable for use here: Sea Bass, Sea Bream, Grey Mullet, Cod, Grouper, John Dory, and even Pike, which, although a fresh water fish, has a delicate, firm white flesh that works very well with the stuffing.
One whole white fish (about 1.4 kg), scaled and gutted
10 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tsp Adonis Hot Fish Spices
60g pine nuts
400g fresh coriander (2 bunches), most of the stalk discarded, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
150 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to grease baking dish
Juice of lemons, or to taste
8 small firm tomatoes, topped, deseeded and drained
Pull the gills out of the fish without damaging the head. Rinse in cold water. Pat dry with kitchen paper and rub with a little salt, inside and out.
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Put the garlic cloves in a food processor, together with the Adonis Hot Fish Spices ground coriander and a pinch of salt. Process until fine. Add the nuts and grind until medium fine – do not pulverize into a fine powder, as the stuffing should retain a nice crunch. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the chopped coriander, onion, tomato, olive oil and lemon juice. Add salt to taste. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Sew up about 5 cm of the fish belly, starting from the tail end, to begin forming the pocket for the stuffing. Use a thick thread and prick the needle well inside the edge of the flesh so that it does not come apart during cooking. Put as much stuffing as you can inside the fish and into its mouth, then sew up the rest of the belly to close it. You can use tooth picks or mini metal skewers to close the fish but the presentation will not be a nice as with the sides sewn.
Grease a large baking dish with a little olive oil. Place the fish inside it. Wrap left over stuffing in aluminium foil and place next to the fish. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until the fish is done to your liking.
Fill the prepared tomato halves with the cooled extra stuffing. Arrange around the fish and serve at room temperature.