Mesut is a very pleasant fisherman who works the Bosphorus in his small diesel engine boat, dodging the steady procession of oil tankers and passenger liners. When the crew were filming me fishing with him, they said it looked as if the boat was in danger of capsizing from the wash, but I was too absorbed in the fishing to notice.
I wish we had blue fish in the UK; fortunately for me, however, in my other home in Sydney they do, known there as trevally. Similar to mackerel but with a creamy taste, blue fish are loved by the Turks, especially the new season ones we were fishing for that day.
This is a common dish in Turkey. I had another one made with bream, but it is much better with a more flavoursome fish like this. In Turkey they serve it with cornbread; the recipe below comes from Leith's cookery school in London and is made with jalapeño chillies and coriander.
- 4 small mackerel or herring, scaled and gutted
- 1tsp salt
- 100ml olive oil
- 1 onion, halved and sliced
- 6 green finger chillies, split open but kept whole
- Large handful flat-leaf parsley
- 12 turns black peppermill
- 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 30g/6 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 lemon, skin and pith removed, sliced
- For the chilli cornbread
- 200g plain flour
- 70g yellow cornmeal
- 1tbs baking powder
- Pinch salt
- 4tbs chopped coriander
- 2-3 jalapeño chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
- 50g feta cheese, crumbled
- 30g soft light brown sugar
- 6tbs water
- 3 large eggs
- 70ml sunflower oil
To make the cornbread, first heat the oven to 180°C and warm a baking sheet. Place paper cases in a 12-hole muffin tin. Sift the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the coriander, chillies, feta and sugar.
In a jug, mix together the water, eggs and oil. Add to the dry ingredients and mix together until just combined.
Fill each paper case about two-thirds full, then sit the tin on the warmed baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow the cornbread buns to cool in the tin for five minutes. While the cornbread is baking, sprinkle the fish with the salt inside and out.
Pour two tablespoons of the olive oil into a large pan with a lid, scatter the onions in the base and lay the fish on top. Tuck the chillies and sprigs of parsley in around the fish and sprinkle with the pepper. Add the tomatoes, garlic and slices of lemon, and pour the remaining olive oil over the top. Cover the pan with the lid, bring to a simmer and cook on a medium heat for about 25 minutes. Serve with warm cornbread.
Recipe taken from Rick Stein: From Venice to Istanbul by Rick Stein. Photograph by James Murphy