This dish named Mahi-Shekampor ماهی شکم پر originates from Southern Iran and literally translates to stuffed fish. As per the name, the trout is lovingly stuffed with tart preserved lemons, which really compliment the natural oiliness of the fish. This dish is not only a feast of vibrant colors but of wonderful textures, hidden inside the belly of the fish are crunchy toasted pine nuts offer a refreshing contrast to the delicate flaky fish, then you have the crispy fish skin, the light crunch of the asparagus, the salted potatoes and the soft flesh of the plump cherry tomatoes, their juiciness barely contained within the thin skins.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)
400g baby new potatoes, sliced in half
2 tsp paprika
75g of pine nuts
1 garlic bulb, cloves of garlic bashed and thinly sliced
2 red chilies, thinly sliced and seeds removed
1 large bunch of spring onions, sliced
1 large bunch of coriander, stalks and leaves roughly chopped
4 preserved lemons, finely chopped
10 cherry tomatoes
250g asparagus spears
2 large whole rainbow trout, about 500-600g, ask the fishmonger to remove the head, gut and descale but leave them whole (no filetted), so they're ripe for stuffing
sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 200c. and line a tray with aluminium foil.
Par-boil the potatoes for 10-15 minutes until soft. Place in a bowl, cover with olive oil, sea salt, pepper and the paprika then place on a baking tray. Roast for 30-40 minutes until gloriously crispy.
Meanwhile, toast the pine-nuts in a dry saucepan without oil, it will only take a few minutes until the pine nuts start to brown and you will smell them toasting. Remove the pinenuts from the pan as they start to brown, otherwise they'll continue cooking and may burn.
Set a large frying pan over a medium heat, drizzle in a generous slosh of olive oil to cover the base of the pan, then begin to sauté the garlic and sliced chilli, stirring well. Once the garlic is translucent, add the spring onion slices, followed by the chopped coriander stalks and leaves (leave a small amount for later). Once the spring onions soften, fold in the preserved lemons and pine nuts, then season to taste. Switch off the pan, and leave to cool for at least 15 minutes.
Place the whole trout in the tray lined with aluminium foil. Divide the mixture into two and open up the belly cavities of the fish, then stuff the mixture inside the belly and the head. Then drizzle the skin with olive oil, as this will ensure the skin is crispy and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
With about 10 or 15 minutes to spare place the cherry tomatoes on the tray so they can start to bake. Steam the asparagus for 3-5 minutes, until the spears can be easily speared with a sharp knife.
Once the fish is cooked, use a fork to flake the fish, if it comes off easily and is opaque, it is ready. Serve alongside the vegetables on warm plates. You should be able to gently remove the main bone of each fish and discard, avoiding all bones.