Sunday, March 2, 2008

Snapper in Sea Salt; Sujak

Back in the days when Jamie Oliver was young and cheeky, and everything was "pukka" and "lovely jubbley", he brought out his first cookbook, The Naked Chef. In this book, Jamie provides instructions on how to cook a whole fish in sea salt. I have also seen him cook a chicken in a salt crust.

The process of cooking in a salt crust fascinated me because it seemed to take so little time, so I decided to give it a whirl myself using the snapper that I purchased from Prahran Market.

The process of cooking a fish in sea salt is easy - preheat your oven to its hottest temperature, line a baking tray with alfoil and spread a bed of coarse sea salt on top of the foil approximately 2cm thick which is large enough to rest the fish on. Fill the cavity of your scaled, gutted fish with lemon slices and fresh parsley, basil, dill, coriander or bay, and place it on top of the salt bed. Cover the fish (except the head and tail) with a 2cm coating of salt, scrunch the edges of the foil up around the fish so that the fish is encased in an open topped foil "dish", then bake the fish in the pre-heated oven for roughly 10 minutes per 450g. (I had to cook mine for twice as long because my fish wasn't quite defrosted when I put it in the oven.)

Remove the fish from the oven at the end of the cooking time and rest it for 15 minutes so that it can continue to cook in the salt crust, then break open the crust and remove the salt before cutting up the fish for serving.

This cooking method produces a juicy, flavourful fish in a very short period of time. I served my fish with spiced couscous containing carrot, kumara, sultanas and shallots from my favourite deli, Cleos.

While I was in Cleos, an odd looking sweet on the counter called sujak caught my eye. I couldn't find anything about sujak on the Internet. However, according to the sign at Cleos, sujak comprises threaded walnuts boiled in a grape juice and honey syrup to produce a sweet which resembles a candle in appearance:

There's even a "wick" in it:

Dont be fooled by the odd appearance of the sujak - it can only be described as "yum"! This was my dessert to go with the fish.


Pixie said...

am curious about the sujak...

the fish method sounds interesting and I've seen it a few times, also salt covered over chicken....i'm curious about this method too and need to try it one day

Cakelaw said...

Hi Pixie, if you find out anything about it, I'd love to know. It tastes seriously good. The salt method is fun, but because it uses so much sea salt, I'd only do it eveyr once in a while.

Gretchen Noelle said...

Interesting with the fish. They make a chicken with salt here in Peru...not covered but sitting on top of it. Roasted. It was rather delicious. I will "look into it" and see what I find out! I use Peruvian salt which is a bit different than most others, it is like powder. Hmmm...need to do a post on that too I suppose!

Peter M said...

Cake, I'm pleased you've tried and enjoyed fish baked in salt and yes, this s a great and easy method to prepare fish.

On to "sujak". I think you're referring to Sujuk and it particular Sujuk Loukoum.

Sujuk means sausage in Turkish and Loukoum is Turkish delight.

It appears you have a Turkish delight sausage made with grape must...very tasty!

This Sujuk Loukoum can also be found in the northeatern Greek province of Thrace.

Rosie said...

Hi Cakelaw, I have read about cooking in sea salt but never tried this out yet. Must say your fish does look very juicy a must try sometime!

Rosie x

Cakelaw said...

Hi Gretchen, I look forward to learning all about Peruvian salt!

Thanks for the info Peter. That would help to explain why I could find nothing about it on the Internet. It tastes really good!

Hi Rosie, It is definitely a good way of cooking fish, and very fast.

Laurie Constantino said...

The walnuts dipped in grape must (petmezi) is called Soutzoukos in Greek. Here's the wikipedia entry on it:

Glad you discovered baking fish in salt; I love how moist the fish stays.