When you think of the Bedouin, nomadic people who’ve been roaming the deserts of Arabia for well over five thousand years by most counts, the last dish you’d think of would be fish.
Let alone fish with vegetables!
But many Bedouin in coastal regions have always fished, and, over the last few decades, their culinary range has expanded from dates, olives, camel and goat milk products, spices and unleavened bread, through to — yay! — fresh vegetables. And this delicious Bedouin fish is a tribute to their inventiveness.
One thing most Bedouin remain short of is water, both drinking water and washing water. And this super-easy dish remains true to the tradition in that sense at least, and, actually, rather perfect for the lazy cook.
- Vegetables (preferably onion, garlic, tomato, peppers and potatoes)
- A couple of good, big, fresh sea fish — grouper, snapper or similar — scaled and cleaned.
- Light olive oil (the colour should be gold, not green)
- Ground cumin or fresh marmaria
- Tin foil
What’s marmaria, I hear you cry? It’s a plant that grows in the Sinai that tastes like a type of wild thyme: fresh thyme makes a very acceptable substitute.
Ideally, you will have a view like this to engage in the limited preparation required:
- Slice through to the bone on both sides but leave the head on.
- Clean and roughly slice vegetables.
- Place vegetables on large sheet of tin foil, put the fish on top, then scatter more vegetables over the top.
- Season with salt, pepper, either cumin or marmaria and plenty of light olive oil.
- Package the fish and veggies in tin foil, leaving plenty of space for the steam to expand the parcel, and seal the edges carefully.
- Grill over a campfire or barbecue at a low heat for roughly one hour.
This does, however, involve a degree of kneading, not to say plain old-fashioned pizza wizardry, that will put it beyond the scope of most lazy cooks.
Fancy trying it?
An old wok turned upside down makes an acceptable substitute for the dish the Bedouin use. Get it very, very hot, flip the bread on, flip it over, and flip it off, just like you’d toss a pancake.
Alternatively, just pick up some soft flatbreads from the local shop, rip them into chunks, and use them to scoop the fish straight from the foil.