Signature dish: Sea bass with Syrian style warm lentil salad

I can't believe a whole month has passed without me writing a word on my blog. To my defence (I keep telling myself) I moved house, I moved job, I moved city (Syrian Foodie in Essex nowadays), I have a three months old baby, I am organising an international medical conference and I have a couple of research projects that I am so far behind on. I think I have a very valid excuse!

To start me writing again I decided to write about my "signature dish" but which one? I thought long and hard about that one. I wanted my signature dish to be something I created. I wanted something modern and elegant. And finally a dish with a true Syrian flavour to it. (speaking of elegant, I am not happy with the pictures I have. when I cook this dish again I will take new photos and re-post).

Us Damascene are not big fish eaters. Many house holds in Damascus would eat fish less than once in a year. And when we decide to eat it we use the most an imaginative way of cooking fish, deep fried. Don't get me wrong, I love deep fried fish with Arabic bread and nice taratour sauce on the side but I love fish cooked with a bit more imagination. I love combining fish with interesting salads, I love fish curries and I love fish with vegetables or beans on the side. So when I wanted to create an interesting fish dish and give it a Syrian flavour was particularly challenging.

Lentil and fish is a classic combination. From experience I believe the less you do to a nice piece of fish the better so I decided to leave the fish as simple as I can and turn my attention to the lentils to Syrianise it. What I did in essence was to take a simple classic Ful bi Ziet (broad beans in olive oil) and replace the broad beans with lentils. Add a piece of nice fish and the result works a treat and unmistakably Syrian.

Here is my Sea bass with warm lentil salad:

Sea bass fillet skins on 1-2 per person
Dry green lentils 100g
One large tomato
One onion
Chopped parsley 30g
Lemon juice
Olive oil
Garlic two cloves
Black pepper

Wash the lentil and cook in plenty of salted water until nice and tender. This might take 20 - 30 minutes depending on the lentil. Drain and keep warm.

Chop the tomato and onion as fine as you can. Crush the two cloves of garlic and add with the lemon juice and parsley to the tomato and onion.

Heat a heavy-bottom large pan. Season the fish with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a little oil to the pan and cook the fish fillets skin side first. You need to press the fish fillet down with your hand to prevent the skin curling. Once started cooking you can add the next fillet and repeat the same process. Once the skin is gold and crispy turn the fillet to cook the other side. The whole cooking process should not take more than few minutes.

Add the warm lentils to the salad. Season with salt and a generous amount of olive oil. Spoon some of the lentil salad and arrange the fish on top. Drizzle with olive oil.