Julius Roberts' Fish Cooked in a Spiced Tomato Sauce
February 12, 2024

Julius Roberts' Fish Cooked in a Spiced Tomato Sauce

This recipe comes from Julius Robert's new cookbook "The Farm Table."

"This is based on a fantastic North African dish called Chraime. Fillets of white fish are gently cooked in a tangy tomato sauce spiced with paprika, cumin and preserved lemon, before being drizzled with tahini and torn cilantro--it's divine. Cooking fish in this way yields beautifully tender flakes, which absorb tons of flavor from the tomato sauce with its lovely warming spices, ideal for when the weather begins to turn. Preserved lemon is a pretty key element here, adding both salinity and a tanginess, but it can be salty, so be careful with your seasoning. I often eat this on its own as a light supper, but its great with couscous and pita. The sauce can be made in advance, but I would save cooking the fish until you're going to eat it. Any white fish works well, either fillets or cut across the bone."

4 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely sliced
5 cloves of garlic, finely sliced 
2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin 
a pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 x 14oz/400g cans of whole, peeled tomatoes
1-2 preserved lemons, depending on size
4 fillets or slices of white fish (hake, pollock, halibut, bass, etc.)
Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

For the tahini sauce  
1 clove of garlic 
½ lemon 
¼ c/80g Seed + Mill Organic Tahini 
5-6 tbsp ice-cold water
a little ground cumin



1. In a wide pot, warm the olive oil, then add the onion with a pinch of salt and fry until soft. Add the garlic and spices and fry for a minute or two until fragrant, then add the tomato paste. Cook out the paste for a couple of minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn't catch on the bottom of the pot. Pour in the canned tomatoes, then rinse out each can with a splash of water and pour that in too. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes to thicken the sauce. Quarter and deseed the preserved lemons, then chop into small pieces before adding to the sauce. I would recommend adding the lemon a tablespoon at a time, tasting as you go to find the right balance. I say this because they come in many sizes and strengths, so you really need to taste and get the amount right for you.

2. To make the tahini sauce, grate the garlic into a bowl, squeeze over the juice of half a lemon, mix together and leave for 5 minutes. The acidity of the lemon will relax the heat of the garlic. Pour in the tahini and whisk together- it will begin to stiffen- then slowly pour in the ice-cold water, a tablespoon at a time, whisking as you go until you have a smooth, drizzly sauce. You want it to be quite runny. 

3. Season with a pinch of salt and a dash of cumin. Taste and adjust with a little more salt and/or lemon as need be.

4. Season the fish and nestle it in to the tomato sauce. Cook for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets, until just cooked. Serve immediately, with warm pita and couscous, and finish with lots of tahini sauce and fresh cilantro.