Yakhnit samak

Yakhnit samak

Arabic fish stew with lemon and saffron and hot pepper rouille

Matt Harvey

Another traditional fish stew popular in Lebanon and Syria. It is intensely flavoured, very lemony and a deep golden colour from the saffron.

Hot pepper rouille


Quantity Ingredient
250g potatoes
300ml water
5 garlic cloves, peeled
15 saffron threads, briefly roasted and crushed
2 red bullet chillies, seeded and roughly chopped
2 red capsicums, roasted, skinned and diced
1/2 lemon, juiced
250ml olive oil
salt and pepper
100g moghrabieh
80ml olive oil
2 large brown onions, diced
2 large leeks, diced, white part only
4 garlic cloves, sliced
10 saffron threads
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 long red chilli, seeded and shredded
3 bay leaves
750ml water
1/2 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
lemon juice, squeezed
4 180 g john dory, heads and tails removed, cut in half crosswise


  1. To make the rouille, cook the potatoes in water with the garlic, saffron and chillies until the potatoes are soft and the water has nearly evaporated. Tip into a liquidiser with the peppers and half the lemon juice and whiz to a purée. With the motor running, dribble in the oil until it is all incorporated, then add the remaining lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and adjust with extra lemon juice, if necessary. The rouille will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.
  2. Put the moghrabieh in a saucepan with 250 ml water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes until tender.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large heavy-based casserole dish. Add the onions, leeks and garlic and sauté for 4–5 minutes, until they start to soften, without colouring. Add the spices and thyme and sauté for a few more minutes. Then add the tomatoes, chilli, bay leaves and moghrabieh and stir well. Finally, pour in the water and bring it to the boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan and leave to simmer very gently for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the fish pieces, cover the pan and continue to simmer gently for 4–5 minutes, until the fish is just cooked. Ladle the stew into deep bowls, sprinkle on a few coriander leaves, add a squeeze of lemon and let everyone help themselves to a dollop of rouille.
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