Glasgow-based food writer and cookery teacher Sumayya Usmani draws on her childhood in Pakistan for her inspiring recipe for Mummy's whole fish

  • 60
  • 3 - 4
  • Medium
A whole fish (or fish steaks) topped with spiced tomato and red onion is a quick and delicious way to add Pakistani flavour to seafood – this one is a staple in my mother’s home. You can use red snapper, mackerel or rainbow trout (whole or in fillets), or halibut or hake works just as well.


  • 1 whole gutted red snapper (or fish of your choice)
  • juice of 1½ lemons
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 5-6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 red onions, cut into rings
  • ½ tsp ajwain seed
  • 5 large tomatoes on the vine, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • ½ bunch of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 2.5cm piece ginger, peeled and cut into julienne


Mummy’s whole fish

1 Rub the fish with the juice of one lemon, salt, chilli powder and turmeric. Place on a plate, cover loosely and set aside until ready to cook. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.

2 Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and allow to splutter for 30 seconds. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds; do not allow to burn. Add the onions and cook for 10 minutes, or until slightly caramelised.

3 Add the ajwain seeds and chopped tomatoes and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and the oil rises to the top. Add the tomato purée and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until everything is red and bubbly. Turn off the heat.

4 Top the fish with this tomato mixture, then place the fish in a large baking dish, cover with foil and cook in the hot oven for 45 minutes if the fish is whole, 15-20 minutes if the fish is in pieces. Check to see if the fish is cooked through. For the last 4-5 minutes remove the foil and allow the topping to caramelise.

5 Garnish with chopped coriander, green chilli, ginger julienne and a squeeze of half a lemon and serve hot.

• Summers Under the Tamarind Tree by Sumayya Usmani is published by Frances Lincoln, £20

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