Mahi Shekam Por – Caspian Sea style stuffed fish

ماهی شکم پر

On February 23rd, 2019 I threw a dinner party and invited a few of my very close and dear friends who are self-proclaimed “The Caspian Chef taste testers” and I wanted to offer them a variety of fun and unique Persian food that I was fairly certain they had not had been familiar with.

I was also quite aware that I myself had not had this dish for 38 years. THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS! Ah…the first bite, the familiar taste of home, the playful texture of the fish roe, the tanginess of the barberries, the fragrant and familiar aroma of the herbs were a complete flashback to being a 15-year-old boy and remembering my mom preparing this dish at one of her dinner parties.

She, of course, would have used one big giant fish that was stuffed to the rim and the cavity was sewn shut to keep the stuffing intact. I actually was looking through my photo albums to see if I can find a picture of the dining table with the fish at the centerpiece. I am afraid the one and the only image of that dinner exists in my nostalgic part of my brain.

2020 update:

Mom making her Mahi Shekam Por! I have updated the recipe and the photos to reflect the changes.

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Mahi Shekam Por

Caspian sea stuffed fish with herbs, barberries, walnuts and fish roe with saffron glaze.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Main Course, seafood
Cuisine: Persian
Keyword: barberry, fish, fish roe, seafood, stuffed fish
Servings: 4
Author: Omid Roustaei, The Caspian Chef

Ingredients

Fish

  • 1 whole white fish, butterflied and deboned, about 1.5 pounds
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup basil, finely chopped
  • 1 cup walnut, finely ground
  • 1 small onion, grated (juice squeezed out and discarded)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
  • 1 teaspoon Gardeh Ghooreh, Persian dried sour grape powder
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, halved
  • 1/2 cup dried barberries, soaked for 5 minutes and rinsed
  • 4 tablespoons fish roe

Glaze

  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron, ground
  • 2 tablespoon hot water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

  • Rinse the fish under cool water and pat dry with paper towels.  Season the inside of the fish with 1 teaspoon salt and set aside.
  • Wash the herbs, pat dry and place them in a food processor and process until finely chopped.  Remove from the food processor and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • In the same food processor,  add the walnuts and process until you have a fine ground.  Remove from the food processor and add to the herbs mixture.
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the herbs mixture and mix well.
  • Begin placing the stuffing into the fish cavity until all the stuffing has been used.
  • Bring the edges of the butterflied fish together and make sure the stuffing is secured in the fish cavity. 
  • Cut a kitchen twine into four 6 inch segments and space them a few inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  • Place the stuffed fish on top of the twine and tie the twine around the fish to make sure the stuffing stays intact.
  • Brush the outside of the fish with the saffron oil glaze and place in the center rack in the oven. 
  • Bake at 400°F for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the fish.  Be sure to glaze the fish one more time during the baking process.
  • Remove the fish from the oven allow to sit for 5 minutes before removing the twine.
  • Place the fish on a serving platter and garnish with additional fresh herbs and slices of fresh oranges and limes.
  • Mahi Shekam Por is served with Sabzi Polo (Persian herb rice) or plain steamed basmati rice.

Notes

For the fish, you can use striped bass, rockfish, tilapia, trout, or any other seasonally available white-fleshed fish.
A couple of tablespoons of fresh lime juice can be substituted for the Ghardeh Ghooreh. 
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