Today, I’m pleased to share a traditional Corfu recipe. Bourtheto is a delicious, spicy meal that you can make with white fish fillet (like cod or perch) but it’s particularly delicious with whole scorpion fish (skorpios, in Greek). The yumminess in the meal is in the simplicity of the ingredients, the tang of the lemon juice being the jewel in the crown!
Aunt Rini Tsatsanis pictured in 1967 with my cousin Rini, auntie’s first grandchild.
I can’t possibly share this recipe without first mentioning my late great-aunt Rini Tsatsanis from Messonghi, Corfu. When I was little I used to stay in her house on the village beach for a few days at a time and she’d make this meal so spicy I’d take one bite and dive for my tumbler to quench the burn in my throat with a few gulps of water! Still, I enjoyed it every time. Aunt Rini’s bourtheto was legendary in the family!
And now, here’s the recipe, which has evolved in the family over time:
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
4 medium-sized fish fillets
1/2 passata (tomato puree) carton
1 medium beef tomato skinned and chopped
(or 4-5 cherry tomatoes, whole)
1 red onion, chopped
Fresh lemon juice (½ medium lemon)
Extra virgin olive oil
Fry the onion in the oil for a minute to soften. Add the tomato, passata, salt, pepper, chilly powder, and a little hot water and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the fish (if using fillet, it must be defrosted and washed). Add hot water, if needed, to half-cover the fish. Simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure fish is covered with the sauce. Turn over gently if using whole fish, or spoon sauce from the pan over the fish every now and then to make sure it’s covered fully and staying moist.
Taste to check fish is done, add salt if needed. When sauce has thickened, add chopped parsley and lemon juice and move the pan gently in your hands to spread the lemon juice and the sauce evenly. Cover, switch off heat and leave it on the ring for another minute, then serve immediately with fries, fresh bread and a salad.
Note: Optionally, you can throw in a few capers with the lemon juice. Also, you can use cayenne or paprika instead of chilly powder for a mild version. It’s equally mouth-watering!
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