There will be one book in your kitchen, different from all the rest. You can recognise it by the grease splatters on the pages, the pencilled comments you have made in the margins and the binding coming apart. These are the signs that you have a great cook book on your shelf. Mine is Claudia Roden’s ‘The Book of Jewish Food’. It’s a celebration of tastes and places and people and jokes and feasts and families and friends and vanished worlds. It was a revelation to me and made me realise that food is about so much more than just eating.
Claudia Roden’s recipe for Pishkado kon Salsa de Tomat, or Fish with tomato sauce, is one I make often because it is quick, simple, classy and delicious. She says that fish cooked with tomatoes is characteristic of every Judeo-Spanish community. It is done with whole fish such as red mullet, fresh sardines, mackerel, or with fish steaks or fillets. I make it with cod pieces, a thriftier alternative, which works very well.
The language, by the way, is Ladino, spoken by Sephardic Jews of mediterranean background. It is based on medieval Spanish, with some Hebrew, Greek, and Turkish words. If you are a Spanish speaker, you will see how close it is to Pescado con salsa de tomato.
PISHKADO KON SALSA DE TOMAT
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 4 TB olive oil
- 4 large tomatoes
- 1 small, mild or semi-hot pointed green pepper, sliced thinly (optional)
- 1 tsp sugar
- Salt & pepper
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 kg (2lb) fish pieces, or 4 individual fish
- 4 TB finely chopped dill, or flat leafed parsley
- In a large frying pan, fry the garlic in oil till it begins to change colour.
- Add the tomaotes and green pepper, season with sugar and a little salt and pepper, and cook 10 minutes with the lid off, until the sauce is thick.
- Then add the lemon juice and the fish. Cook 10 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and flaky.
- Add the dill or flat leafed parsley a few minutes before the end.
- In Salonika, Nicholas Stavroulakis adds a little white wine and a pinch of cinnamon, but no lemon, to the sauce.
- In Derby, I make it with a green jalapeno chilli and a 400g tin of tomatoes and serve it with rice.