Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dish #13: Bahrain - Roasted Fish with Muhammar

The cuisine of Bahrain is extremely varied - so much so that it's very hard to find a dish to prepare that feels like it's truly from Bahrain.  Bahrainis take advantage of the many diverse cultural influences upon their society to borrow the best of all for their food.  While the purpose of this project is to cook the food of the world and experience a wide array of different culinary approaches, I actually don't mind that many dishes I could find for Bahrain were either directly taken from another country or the result of interpretations on foreign meals by creative Bahraini cooks.  Food is the easiest way to relate and interact across cultures, and it's been fun to see how prevalent this is in the dishes eaten and shared all around the world.

For Bahrain, I was going to make Shrimp Machboos, which is very similar to a Biyrani - a rice dish that is eaten all over the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.  However, when the day came, I wanted to go a different way.  My friend Brandy suggested that I try the below fish and rice dish from Cooked Earth, which appealed to me much more.  I added some (light) creamed spinach to it, because as I said in my last entry, I love spinach, and I feel like our meals can always use more greens.

This was a good dish, but I actually found that the flavors of the fish and the rice competed against each other.  They were both heavy on cinnamon and other spices in that family, which complemented the buttery white fish nicely, but were overpowering when repeated in the rice.  I was so happy that I made the mellow creamed spinach and could make forkfuls of all three ingredients, with the spinach neutralizing the effect of the other two.  If I made this again, I would prepare a plain basmati rice with the fully seasoned fish.

Roasted Fish (based on recipe from Cooked Earth)

Whole white fish (or filets), preferably grouper or mackarel (I used turbot)
1/4 t chile powder
1/2 t turmeric powder
1/2 t ground black pepper
3/4 t cumin
3/4 t fennel
3/4 t corainder
3/4 t cinnamon
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all spices and olive oil together in a small bowl into a paste, then rub over fish filets.  Place filets on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until it flakes with a fork.

Muhammar (based on recipe from Cooked Earth)

2 cups basmati rice, rinsed and drained
6 cups water
2 T butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk (I used fat-free half and half)
salt to taste

1/4 t saffron (3-4 threads)
2 T rose water (I used regular water)
1/2 t cardamom
1 t clove
1/4 t cinnamon

Soak the saffron, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon in the rose water.  Let steep for at least 30 minutes.

Melt 1 T butter in a small saucepan and add rice, tossing lightly to coat.  Add 6 cups water and salt lightly.  Bring to a boil and then let simmer until most of the water is absorbed, stirring occasionally.  Stir sugar through hot rice and add another 1 T of butter.  Add rose water mixture and stir to combine, then add the milk and let simmer until all liquids are absorbed and the rice is finished to your liking.

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