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Recipe Development: Fish Kofte
Overview

Eyal shows us how he reinvented a classic middle eastern staple, swapping out meat for beautiful flaky fish. The delicate flavours of the Seabass (or Lavrak as its known in Israel) and aubergine are amplified through the process of grilling over an open flame - this is a dish that uses the smoky aromas that come from fire cooking, and contrasts them against the fresh burst of herbs and citrus.

Development Stages

Key Components:

Kofte - essentially ground meat, moulded into a round, these middle eastern meatballs are really a vessel for different flavours and seasonings. Their shape can also vary from long and thin to more of a meatball, and this will have a bearing on how the Kofte cooks. The trick is to create a dark golden exterior while keeping a juicy interior packed full of flavour. The fish works perfectly here because the high temperature of fire cooking will make sure the fish doesn’t dry out and become over cooked.

Aubergine - Unsurprisingly, aubergine is used extensively across the middle east because it grows best in a warm sunny climate. The telltale smoky flavour is found in all kinds of dishes and here Eyal makes it the main partner to his Koftes, and even uses the excess juices to create a delicious sauce. By placing the whole aubergine in with the coals at the beginning of the cooking process, the skin will blister and char, but importantly it will protect the flesh with its high water content. This deeply roasted aubergine, will be saturated with smoky flavour and will then be used for the baba ghanouj and the whole roasted vegetable (once the skin is removed).

Balance - Throughout the dish, Eyal is looking to balance the delicate flavours of the two main components. Both the seabass and the aubergines need to be allowed to sing, and the addition of herbs and spices are only there to enhance the natural flavour of these star ingredients. This speaks to the major ethos of Israeli cooking, which is to balance the taste of the dish through simple cooking methods rather than through overseasoning.

Fire cooking - This ancient technique of cooking is arguably the oldest method still used today. Eyal is a true master of fire cooking, having specialised in it during his time as head chef of the Barbary. Here he shows us how to structure our fire, creating different areas of heat used for different purposes. Fire cooking is obviously a harsh and often unpredictable method of cooking, but with Eyal’s guidance this technique can transform a dish with its beautiful charred flavours and deep smoky aroma.

Teachings:

  1. Fish butchery - Eyal will be showing us how to completely fillet, debone and skin a round fish, practicing transferable knife skills and some good zero waste habits.
  2. Grilling - Learning how to prep a grill, and practice temperature control across hot and cold zones to achieve both charred results while cooking safely.
  3. Fire roasting - understand the process of roasting directly in amongst the coals of your grill, using high heat and direct contact to imbue a deep aromatic flavour to your vegetables.

Make It Your Own:

  • Kofte protein - Eyal’s dish is inspired by the fish koftes of Tel Aviv that he made extensively as head chef at the Barbary, but there's no reason why you shouldn’t experiment with other proteins once you are comfortable with the recipe. Any meaty white fish works well when making koftes, just remember the ‘mince’ has the best mouth feel there are still discernible flakes of fish. You can also use meat in your koftes, with lamb and beef working well as long as you include a good amount of fat so that they don’t dry out on the grill. The protein that you use will also dictate how you season the mixture.
  • Kofte seasoning - depending on the protein you use for your koftes you can really play around with different flavour profiles. White fish tends to have a relatively delicate flavour that you don’t want to overpower with too much seasoning. Why not play around with the aromatics you use, with leek greens, shallots and even minced ginger all working well. Alternatively, if you are using lamb for instance, pine nuts, baharat and fresh mint work beautifully. Whereas beef would pair well with coriander and cumin.
  • Baba Ghanouj seasoning - aubergine and tahini are the two main pillars of this classic condiment, but that leaves a lot of room for you to get creative with how you season it. Eyal uses Silan, which is a very sweet dark syrup made from medjool dates, however if you want a slightly lighter more tangy option, pomegranate molasses also works beautifully here. Additionally if you want to customise your baba ghanouj, you can finely mince some summer herbs of your choosing - coriander, parsley or dill would all work fantastically.
  • Roasted vegetables - The aubergine is key to the structure of the dish here as it retains its flavour and structure under intense cooking, but that isn’t to say other vegetables with a tough outer skin won’t also work well. In the summer, bell peppers and whole onions cook beautifully amongst the coals, and simply require the outer skin to be stripped once cooked. In the winter, smaller squashes and gourds will cook down when placed within your grill, taking on the beautiful aromas of the smoke. Because of its thick skin the inner flesh will effectively steam, (although their cooking time will be longer than the aubergine)

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I think food is at its best when it’s fresh, simple...unpretentious. The most important thing? Ingredients - I am obsessed with quality.