Fragrant Fish

Cook this delicious recipe taken from the debut cookbook by Sumayya Usmani

Posted: 04.04.16

A beautiful hardback cookery book filled with childhood anecdotes and magnificent meals, Sumayya Usmani has made the delicate flavours of Pakistani cuisine accessible for all in her debut cookbook Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan. Inside are over 100 recipes interwoven with her own personal reflections. Influences come from the country and its neighbours, which have an impact on the flavours of different regions including Iran, Afghanistan, India and China leading to Arabic, Persian and Asian inspired dishes. There are street food, vegetarian dishes, desserts and drinks, all which are equally as appealing as each other.

Enjoy this delicious recipe, taken from the book, published April 7th:

Mummy’s whole fish
With spiced red onion and tomato topping
A whole fish (or fish steaks) topped with spiced tomato and red onion is a quick and delicious way
to add Pakistani flavour to seafood – this one is a staple in my mother’s home. You can use red
snapper, mackerel or rainbow trout (whole or in fillets), or halibut or hake works just as well.
Preparation 15–20 minutes | Cooking 20 minutes fillet, 50 minutes whole fish | Serves 3–4
1 whole gutted red snapper (or fish
of your choice)
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
5–6 tbsp vegetable oil
1½ tsp cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 red onions, cut into rings
½ tsp ajwain seed
5 large tomatoes on the vine,
1 tbsp tomato purée
To garnish
½ bunch of coriander (cilantro) leaves,
roughly chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
2.5cm/1-inch piece ginger, peeled
and cut into julienne
juice of ½ lemon


  1. Rub the fish with lemon juice, salt, chilli powder and turmeric. Place on a plate, cover loosely and set aside until ready to cook.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and allow to splutter for 30 seconds. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds; do not allow to burn. Add the onions and cook for 10 minutes, or until slightly caramelised.
  4. Add the ajwain seeds and chopped tomatoes and cook for 5–6 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and the oil rises to the top. Add the tomato purée and cook for a further 3–4 minutes until everything is red and bubbly. Turn off the heat.
  5. Top the fish with this tomato mixture, then place the fish in a large baking dish, cover with foil and cook in the hot oven for 45 minutes if the fish is whole, 15–20 minutes if the fish is in pieces. Check to see if the fish is cooked through. For the last 4–5 minutes remove the foil and allow the topping to caramelise.
  6. Garnish with chopped coriander, green chilli, ginger julienne and a squeeze of lemon and serve hot.Recipe taken from Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan by Sumayya Usmani is published by Frances Lincoln (£20.00)

Pic credit: Joanna Yee

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