Middle Eastern Baked Fish

I think a whole fish looks grand when served up to guests. This is one I’ve made a couple of times. 

Middle Eastern Baked Fish

A tasty whole fish. You can either season the fish or marinade it. You can also choose accompany the fish with Tarator sauce, Hot Spicy sauce or with Tahina sauce.



  • 1 medium 1 kg to large (2 kg) whole fish, scaled, gutted, washed (Claudia recommends sea bass, bream, John Dory, but in NZ I used Snapper)

Ingredients for seasoning

  • Olive oil or ghee
  • Salt and pepper

Ingredients for marinade

  • Olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • onion minced
  • garlic minced
  • fresh herbs bay leaves, oregano, marjoram, tarragon and basil, chopped

Ingredients for Tarator Sauce

  • 2 slices white bread crusts removed
  • 250 grams pine nuts or almonds, ground or crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1-2 lemons juice only
  • Some water or fish stock from when fish was baked see above

Ingredients for Harra Sauce (Hot Spicy)

  • 375 grams walnuts coarsely chopped
  • A bunch of fresh coriander finely chopped
  • 7-15 cloves garlic minced
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 lemons juice only
  • salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon chilli
  • Some water or fish stock from when fish was baked see above
  • [Optional] 1/2 teaspoon sumac
  • [Optional] 1/2 fresh pomegranate seeds only

Ingredients for Tahina Sauce

  • 300 ml tahina
  • 150 ml lemon juice
  • 150 ml water
  • salt
  • 2 large onions sliced
  • Olive oil


General instructions

  • Preheat oven to 160º C
  • Cut some incisions in the skin of the fish
  • Rub seasoning over the Fish OR Marinade the fish for a few hours
  • Place seasoned or marinated fish in a large piece of well oiled foil.
  • Wrapped up and seal edges firmly.
  • Bake at 160º C until done, i.e. flesh flakes easily and is no longer translucent (30-45 min)
  • Reserve fish stock for sauce (if required)
  • Serve

Instructions for Tarator Sauce

  • Soak bread in water and squeeze dry.
  • Add remaining ingredients
  • Blend to a smooth creamy paste.

Instructions for Harra Sauce (Hot Spicy)

  • Blend all ingredients except pomegranate seeds to a smooth creamy paste.
  • Stir pomegranate seeds into the sauce

Ingredients for Tahina Sauce

  • Mix tahina, lemon juice, water and salt to a light cream
  • Sauté onion in oil until soft and slightly coloured
  • Sprinkle over the fish when ready to serve


You need to choose whether you will season the fish or marinade it. You also need to choose the sauce to accompany the fish: Tarator sauce, Hot Spicy or Tahina sauce.
Serve fish hot or cold, in either of these ways:-
  1. on a large platter of lettuce or parsley, decorated with lemon slices, sliced green pickles, black olives, radishes, friend pine nuts or almonds, and/or capsicums, and with a separate bowls of sauce.
  2. smothered in the sauce.
  3. Only if you have chosen the Tahina Sauce, then bake the fish in the Tahina Sauce along with the fried onions, rather than add the sauce after cooking.
Adapted from Claudia Roden (1986)


Roden, C. (1986). A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Penguin.

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