Bream with garlic, saffron and preserved lemons

“As the Italian say, cook with love and passion. Which I translate as: enjoy it, give it time and patience, and be tender.Niamh Shields

I totally agree. Sometimes, cooking feels like meditation, all the stars aligned. I remember the first time I felt like this. Or perhaps the first time I consciously noticed feeling like this. It was over a big pot of ragu for lasagne. Everything felt just right: calm, complete, whole, balanced. I was happy and connected. And the dish turned out just delicious.

It’s similar with flavours, but the feeling is stronger and shorter. Like a dart of pleasure, a stronger connection, but one that lasts a shorter time. Some combinations just hit the right note. Like a culinary, gustatory G-spot. They’re simply perfect. Such as the flavours in Claudia Roden’s chicken tagine with lemon and olives, which were a springboard for this dish. I thought how well its flavours of lemon, saffron and herbs would go with fish. And then I made it and they did go together  so well. 

In the recipe below, I’ve made a fair few changes though: you may notice I omitted the onions and olives, as well as the obvious chicken vs. trout substitution. I also tweaked the quantities of other ingredients, using more garlic, for example.

This dish makes for a perfect speedy dinner. Super-delicious. I’ve made this dish lots of times now, and with different types of white fish. Whole trout is also a particularly good choice – see Notes for the instructions on how to cook it. I normally serve it with couscous or with bulgur. This time, we had our fish alongside a vegetable bulgur pilav. Alternatively, I would have added some lemon juice to the dish to sharpen the flavour, but the pilav was already sharp with the wonderful Turkish tomato paste.

Bream with garlic, saffron and preserved lemon

Bream with garlic, saffron and preserved lemons


SOURCE: Inspired by Claudia Roden’s chicken tagine with lemon and olives from Arabesque, but changed a fair bit


COOKING TIME: 10 – 15 Min



2 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, sliced

a pinch of saffron strands

1/4 tsp ground ginger (optional)

2 fillets of bream



50 ml hot water

1/3 of preserved lemon, finely chopped (1 quarter and a half, if the lemon is quartered)

1 tbsp parsley, chopped finely

1 tbsp coriander, chopped finely

Lemon juice to taste (optional)


Season the fish with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil on medium heat, and add garlic. Fry the garlic a little, 30 s to a minute, and then add saffron and the ginger powder if using. Cook until the garlic starts going golden, and the saffron gives the oil its orange hue.

Add the fish, and cook for 2 – 3 minutes on each side, until it’s cooked through. Take care not to overcook the fish – it spoils the dish.

Sprinkle with the preserved lemon and lemon juice, and heat through again.

Stir in the herbs, reserving a little for garnish, and adjust the seasoning and lemon juice. Serve over the bulgur or couscous, pour over the sauce from the pan and garnish with herbs and serve.



This dish works well with other types of fish, too. I love it with trout. I use 1 whole large trout (about 0.45 kg) to serve 2, fry it in the fragrant oil on both sides, and then add about 150 ml hot water. -Cover and cook for for about 10 min or until done.



Back home

Blue wave

I dream of a perfect mojito on a summer evening, in a shadowy garden of the Havana restaurant in Bar Harbor Maine, at the end of a perfect day.

Perfect mojito

I laugh remembering the zing and the vivacious buzz of Provincetown in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Beautiful dining room

I savour the moments spent around a beautiful round dining table in friends’ house, and off. You’ve got to love a dinner that includes a dash to the seashore to photograph the sunset, alongside a wicked blueberry pie.

Thank you.


To playLighthouseBoats



Blueberry pie in Maine - Thank you to H & BSharing


And it all started with a wedding.



Wedding flowers

Letter to Lina

English garden

Dear Lina,

Hello, my name is A. and I live in your house. Your former house, which is now our house, that is. We bought it off your family after you – well, there is no easy way to say this – passed away. I hope you don’t mind me disturbing your rest.

The neighbours have told me about you. How you liked to cook and entertain well into your 80s. That’s impressive. I want to have the same energy and spirit when I’m that age. And if I’m very lucky, that sort of friends, too, that would come to share the food and the laughter with me. I hope there will always be plenty of both.

I wonder what you cooked in this kitchen. What your favourite breakfast was. What kind of parties you had. Who knows, maybe we’re kindred kitchen souls.

I’ve learnt how to make curries, marmalade and bread from this kitchen. I’ve had a lot of fun playing with ingredients, learning about other cuisines. It will be tough to leave it one day, as I’m sure it was for you when you moved. My favourite breakfasts are many. Warm banana bread with peanut butter and espresso, which I take at the breakfast bar, looking outside as the morning unfolds in our tiny triangular garden outside. But I also love toast with butter and the afore-mentioned marmalade, and espresso with milk. We enjoy full English breakfasts. And many more things. Breakfasts are brilliant, aren’t they? But I wouldn’t knock down dinner or lunch either. We like to cook (a lot), and have friends around. Just like you did, I am told.

We’ve made a fair few changes to the house, especially the kitchen. I wonder if you would approve. We removed the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, making it open-plan, and put a peninsula which is our breakfast bar and a cooking station. You couldn’t not like the high double oven, and you may like the wipe-clean super speedy induction hob. I don’t know, some people prefer real fire, but I don’t miss it. I certainly don’t miss cleaning the gas hob. No disrespect to your old gas hob, of course. There’s red in the kitchen, very red, and two greens in the dining and living rooms. We do like a bit of colour in this (mini) family.

I wanted to thank you for a few of your kitchen things that made it to us. I love the nested stainless steel mixing bowls, endlessly useful they are. And the cast iron yellow Dutch casserole is a joy, though a touch rusty. It does not matter though. I love how well it has lasted.

Anyhow, it’s getting dark here in the garden, and I shall soon have to go back inside. And we will probably be leaving this place soon, too. Which breaks my heart a little bit. It may be for the better, and it probably will be, but there’s nothing quite like your first home, the one you made truly your own, shaped by your tastes and life. It will always stay special.




Ps. Hope you like the flowers from our garden above. The rose is yours, and the lavender mine.

Rain and lunch in Harringay, London

It is raining on Harringay Green Lanes High Street. I am waiting for my sogan kebab: minced lamb chargrilled with shallots and served with a pomegranate sauce and a delicious thin flatbread which they don’t even mention on the menu, but the flatbread deserves both mention and praise as it is delicious, if I remember correctly from last time.

Rain in Harringay

The rain is falling and jumping high off the pavement and off the asphalt, in this little bit of Turkey carved out of the London soil. I am facing the street. Resting, peaceful. Enjoying myself for the first time today. I am liking being with my own thoughts and not even the unlovely music can disturb this.

Across the street, Hot Nuts. You’ve got to love a shop called hot nuts. I’m sure that’s exactly what they sell and what they are,  but I also wonder whether the owner appreciates the connotations the name carries in English. I appreciate it, and giggle.


I take a sip of ayran, and again I get a sense that all is well with the world. The salty yoghurt drink is excellent, and very refreshing.

Bread and salad

A bite of salad: refreshing tomato and peppery Turkish rocket.

The kebab is as good as I remember. Smokey, sour and delicious. There’s a bit of heat riding at the end of the sour note. I see Urfa and pul biber in the sauce tasting of lamb juice and pomegranate molasses.

It’s brightening up, and so have I. One more tea, and I’m on my way. Relishing its bitter sweet taste on my tongue.

Tea time in Harringay



Previously: Food Adventures in London: Turkish food in Harringay Green Lanes