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Yotam Ottolenghi’s Pan-Fried Sea Bream with Harissa and Rose

Sami Tamimi

by Sami Tamimi, Yotam Ottolenghi from Jerusalem

This fragrant sea bream with harissa and rose from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem makes for an elegant dinner party main. The recipe would work equally well with sea bass.

From the book

Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi


This dish originates from Bizerte, the northernmost city in Africa. It is sweet and spicy and beautifully aromatic. It is adapted from a recipe kindly given to us by Rafram Hadad (see more on hadad on page 244 of Jerusalem). Serve it as a main course with some plain rice or couscous and something green, like sautéed spinach or Swiss chard. Dried rose petals are available in Middle Eastern shops and also online.

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3 tbsp harissa paste (shop bought or see page 301of Jerusalem)
1 tsp ground cumin
4 sea bream or bass fillets, about 450g in total, pin bones removed
plain flour, for dusting
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
100ml red wine vinegar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp rosewater
60g currants (optional)
2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander (optional)
2 tsp small dried edible rose petals
salt and black pepper


First marinate the fish. Mix together half the harissa paste, the ground cumin and ½ a teaspoon of salt in a small bowl. Rub the paste all over the fish fillets and leave them to marinate for 2 hours in the fridge.

Dust the fillets with a little flour and shake off the excess. Heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan, placed on a medium–high heat, and fry the fillets for 2 minutes on each side. You may need to do this in two batches. Set the fish aside, leave the oil in the pan and add the onions. Stir as you cook for about 8 minutes until the onions are golden.

Add the remaining harissa, vinegar, cinnamon, ½ a teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Pour in 200ml of water, reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer away gently for 10–15 minutes until quite thick.

Add the honey and rosewater to the pan along with the currants, if using, and simmer gently for a couple more minutes. Taste to adjust the seasoning and then return the fish fillets to the pan; you can slightly overlap them if they don’t quite fit. Spoon the sauce over the fish and leave them to warm up in the simmering sauce for 3 minutes; you may need to add a few tablespoons of water if the sauce is very thick. Serve warm, or at room temperature, sprinkled with the coriander, if using, and rose petals.

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From the book: Jerusalem

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