- 4 pieces (350-400g) daurade royale (ajaj), scaled & filleted, skin left on, pin bones removed
- 40ml vegetable oil, (canola, sunflower or grapeseed)
- 50ml olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
- 200g eggplant, ends trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1 cm. slices
- 100g onion, peeled and cut in 1 cm. slices
- 100g red capsicum, seeds and veins removed, cut into wide, flat pieces
- 250g zucchini, ends trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1 cm. slices
- 1 each very ripe medium tomato, peeled and diced, or 2 whole canned tomatoes
- 2 small lemons, ends trimmed and cut in half
- 4 small sprigs of French thyme, plus 4 large sprigs for garnishing
- 250g dry couscous
- Large pinch of powdered Iranian saffron
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the Ratatouille
1. Prepare a very hot charcoal fire in the grill.
2. Toss the eggplant, zucchini, onion and red capsicum in a little olive oil and season lightly with salt & pepper.
3. Grill quickly on both sides over a very hot charcoal fire until well-marked, but still slightly crisp, about 1½ minutes on each side. Remove vegetables from the grill and lay in a single layer on a large plate to cool.
4. Place the lemon halves, cut side down, on the grill and allow to caramelize to a deep brown, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the grill and allow to cool.
5. When grilled vegetables are cool, cut into 1 cm. dice.
6. Strip the leaves from the 4 small sprigs of thyme and discard the stems.
7. Heat 25 ml. olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat until shimmering.
8. If using the fresh tomato, add it to the pan, stir once, and allow to soften, about 3 minutes. If using canned tomatoes, go to the next step.
9. Add the grilled, diced vegetables and the thyme leaves to the pan and toss to coat with the oil. Allow to cook until just heated through.
10. If you are using the canned tomatoes, squeeze them very hard in your fist over the pan, until they are well crushed and the pulp squeezes out between your fingers.
11. Adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper to taste, remove from the fire, and keep warm. The vegetables should still be slightly crisp and maintain their individual textures.
For the Couscous
1. Put 250 ml. of water in a small pot. Add 4 gr. of salt and the saffron.
2. Bring the water to a boil, add the couscous, stir once and cover the pot tightly. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to sit, undisturbed, until all of the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove the lid, add 10 ml. of olive oil and fluff with a fork until all of the couscous grains are separate. Recover and keep warm.
To Finish the Dish
1. Heat a large, flat sauté pan over high heat.
2. Pat both sides of the daurade filets dry with a paper towel and season lightly with salt & pepper.
3. Add 15 ml. of vegetable oil to the pan and allow it to heat just until it begins to smoke.
4. Working in batches, place the daurade filets, skin side down, into the pan. As you place each filet into the pan, it is very important to IMMEDIATELY press down firmly with a spatula for the first 15 seconds to keep the filets from curling up.
5. Allow the filets to cook on the first side until the skin is crisp and golden brown, about 2 minute. Flip the filets with a wide flat spatula and allow to cook on the second side for only about 1 minute, or until the fish is just cooked through, but not at all dry.
6. Remove the filets to a paper towel lined plate and repeat with the next batch of fish.
7. When all of the filets are cooked, divide the couscous and ratatouille evenly between 4 dinner plates.
8. Shingle 2 filets of daurade against the ratatouille and garnish each plate with a large sprig of thyme and a charred half lemon. Lightly drizzle the fish with additional olive oil as desired.
BY THE SAME CHEF