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Barramundi in Roasted Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Lemon

Barramundi in Roasted Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Lemon

Renée Robinson

In the Mood for Fish Cooked in Harrisa Spiced Roasted Tomato Sauce with Charred Lemons and Roasted Garlic?

This is my first time cooking barramundi and its sweet taste and medium firm texture worked out perfectly for this recipe. I’m now most definitely a fan of this fish. It cooked in a tomato sauce fragrant with harissa spice, garlic and lemon. I cooked a pot of pearl couscous to go with it and it was perfect for soaking up some of that sauce.

I roasted a head of garlic for this. And even though it’s not strictly necessary, those soft unctuous cloves were wonderful when squeezed on top of each serving. I also broiled wedges of lemons and added them to the pot. Again, they’re not absolutely necessary, but I love to eat softly charred pieces of lemons and think they added a beautifully tart element to the overall flavor profile. If you don’t enjoy eating the lemons, you can squeeze their juices into the sauce. 

This recipe came about because the day before I had roasted a tray of seasoned Roma tomatoes and wanted to use some of them for this sauce. I will include the recipe for the tomatoes, but you can substitute a 15 oz. can of whole tomatoes and still have a delicious outcome. I regularly roast tomatoes in one form or another because they’re so versatile to have on hand. I make sandwiches with them, add them to a plate of burrata, pasta, etc. The tomatoes need to be fully ripe, but they don’t have to be the very best in order to perform well when roasted. For these particular tomatoes I chose to roast them long and slow in order to intensify their flavors and semi dry them out. 

Tomato Wedges
Slow Roasted Roma Tomatoes

The sauce contains fresh thyme sprigs and a dried harissa spice blend. While harissa paste is most familiar, the dry spice blend is wonderful to have on hand and its flavors add depth and interest to the sauce. My son suggested adding some ajwain to the sauce. I realize this isn’t an ingredient everyone is likely to have on hand, but we use them when making mango chutneys and other Indian dishes. The tiny dried fruits are seed-like in appearance and have a strong flavor reminiscent of oregano and anise. I only used 1/2 teaspoon, so you could easily substitute crushed fennel seeds or even dried oregano. 

After briefly cooking the sauce only long enough for the flavors to meld, I added the fish, which I’d cut into pieces. I was recently reminded of an article I read awhile ago about using finely grated dried shitake mushrooms as a coating on fish or to add extra umami flavor to other dishes. I gave it a whirl here and because I had plenty already going on in this recipe, I can’t be certain as to its effect. All I can tell you is the fish was delicious and I’ll try the grated mushrooms again on a simpler recipe in order to be able to really tell what it adds to the fish’s flavor. The cooked lemons and garlic were added to the pan and it was placed in the oven for 10 minutes. The fish was juicy and tender. The sauce? Well, we’ll be talking about this one for awhile and it most definitely will be repeated. I served it with pearl couscous. 

Recipe Card

Recipe by Renée Robinson



Fish Cooked in a Sauce of Roasted Tomatoes, Harissa, Garlic and Lemon.

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  • Slow Roasted Roma Tomatoes
  • 8 8 fully ripe Roma tomatoes, quartered lengthwise

  • 4 4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 tablespoon 1 fresh thyme leaves, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon 1 black pepper, freshly ground

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 hot pepper flakes

  • 1 teaspoon 1 granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons 2 olive oil

  • kosher salt

  • Barramundi in Roasted Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Lemon
  • 1 head 1 garlic, top cut off, exposing the garlic cloves

  • 1 whole 1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges.

  • olive oil

  • 1 large 1 yellow onion, sliced thinly

  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons 1 1/2 dried harissa spice blend

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 ajwain, or crushed fennel seeds, or dried oregano

  • 15 oz. 15 can diced tomatoes

  • 14 14 roasted tomato wedges, or 15 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained (crushed with your hands)

  • 6 6 fresh thyme sprigs and 1 teaspoon additional minced leaves for garnish

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 water

  • 1 pound 1 barramundi or other firm white fish, such as snapper or sea bass, cut into large chunks

  • 2 2 dried shiitake mushrooms, finely grated on a microplane


  • Slow Roasted Roma Tomatoes
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place tomatoes on a sheet pan, cut side up. Mix together remaining ingredients, except for salt. Evenly distribute the mixture over the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, until they start looking a little brown around the edges and dried out. You don’t want them to completely dry out. Let cool and use in myriad ways.
  • Barramundi in Roasted Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Lemon
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wrap head of garlic in foil, drizzle with a little olive oil, wrap and bake for 45 minutes until soft. Place lemon wedges on a small sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and broil until beginning to char on the tips. Reserve.
  • In a wide bottomed heavy pan (I used a 4 quart brasier) heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and pinch of salt. Cook until softened, about 6 - 7 minutes. Push the onions to the sides of the pan, and to the middle of the pan add the harissa and ajwain. Let the spices bloom for about a minute until fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes, roasted tomato wedges, thyme sprigs and 1/4 cup water. Cook over low heat to combine all the flavors for about 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
  • Place the roasted head of garlic in the center of the pot. Season both sides of the pieces of fish with salt, pepper and the dried shiitake mushroom gratings. Put the fish into the pot of sauce, tuck in the broiled lemon wedges, drizzle olive oil over the top and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Garnish with the thyme leaves, additional olive and serve. Enjoy!

4 Responses

  1. I’d like to make this recipe for a larger group, so about 3x this amount. Can I do it all in the same dutch oven, or does the fish need to be placed in the sauce in a single layer?

    1. Hi, Karen. I wouldn’t make it all in the same Dutch oven. I’m afraid the fish would cook unevenly. If you’re going to triple the amount, I would make the sauce in a large Dutch oven. Then I would place it in a large roasting pan, add the fish and proceed with the recipe. You’ll want the roasting pan to be large enough to contain the fish in one layer. That should do the trick. Please let me know how you like it!!

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