Straight out of the oven, salt baked pomfret
Straight out of the oven, salt baked pomfret

This dish has been specially made for a friend…he wanted a youtube video, but i’m just about getting the hang of a blog! May be next year Wendell:) But my step-by-step post should be good enough to make this really simple, but brilliant tasting dish.

Baking in salt is a really old technique and everyone from the French, Spanish, Italians, Portuguese to the Africans have laid claim on it. But the truth is, a similar recipe was traced down to the 4th Century BC, when a Greek living in Sicily cooked herbed fish by encasing it in two pounds of salt moistened with water and egg whites. The fish was served by drizzling it with first press olive oil.

Given the amount of salt used, and the fact that salt was rather expensive, one can easily tie the recipe down to rich country by the sea. :)  That’s about it where history is concerned.

Now while cooking the fish, if you want to stay with the French touch, use Herbes de Provence in the salt mix. This is a mixture of dried herbs commonly used in France, the south of France. It’s nothing but equal proportions of dried thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram and savory mixed together with a pinch of dried lavender and crushed aniseed. You could also use this mix to flavour your herbed fish, butter garlic prawns or even chicken grilled with olive oil. All I used was garlic, freshly cracked pepper and fresh rosemary. Serve it with a fresh citrusy salad and you are good to go! I’ve added a lot of baby potatoes sautéed in olive oil with burnt garlic

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg rock salt  
  • 3 eggs
  • 1  pomfret or baby rawas (indian Salmon), de-gilled, and de headed but with scales intact. (Or any fish of your choice) Slit horizontally.
  • 1 lemon, cut into thin slices
  • 1 orange or tangerine, cut into slices
  • 2 teaspoons of Herbes de Provence (traditional recipe: equal proportions of dried thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram and savoury (i often do without this) mixed together with a pinch of dried lavender (i avoid this) and crushed aniseed) or 
  • 4-5 sprigs of a herb of your choice, I’ve used rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger-garlic-chillie paste
  • 2-3 kokum petals (Garcinia Indica, this adds a particular flavour to the fish and also helps get rid of any kind of fishy odour)

Method:

Washed, de gilled and marinated with kokum
Washed, de gilled and marinated with kokum

1.Wash and marinate the fish in the kokum for about an hour.

2. Remove the kokum and marinate the fish in ginger garlic chilli paste, with a wee bit of turmeric and the Herbs. Crack fresh pepper on it.

Fish stuffed with orange, lemon, fresh rosemary, cracked pepper
Fish stuffed with orange, lemon, fresh rosemary, cracked pepper

3. Fill the fish’s cavity with a layer of lime slices, thin slice of tangerine and 2-3 rosemary sprigs. Crack some more fresh pepper in the open cavity.

The essential salt mix
The essential salt mix

3. Now for the salt mix. Mix together 1 kg salt with 3 eggs and some more herbs.

Fish layered between rock salt.
Fish layered between rock salt.

4. Place a layer of the salt mix on the roasting pan and place the fish on it. Top the fish with the remaining salt. I keep the salt layer thin about 1 cm.

5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 250 degree centigrade for 20 mins.

6. To test if its done push a knife through the centre and touch the tip of the knife. If it’s hot the fish has been cooked through. 

Fish flaked: cooked to perfection--moist, flaky and  flavoured delicately.
Fish flaked: cooked to perfection–moist, flaky and flavoured delicately.

7. To serve. Use a thick sharp knife and slowly lift the edge of the salt. It would have compressed into a thick layer and will get picked up with the skin. You can serve flaked fish with a salad, or for effects, serve the fish in a rice dish with the bottom still encased in salt.

This fish tastes best with a citrusy salad.

Salt baked fish served with a zesty salad and garlic fried potatoes
Salt baked fish served with a zesty salad and garlic fried potatoes

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