The words ‘tian’ and ‘tajine’ are borrowed from French, one in Old Provençal, the other Berber “from the Greek têganon [ …] “frying pan”, “flat earth” …is what I read online.
A tian is most commenly based on layers of vegetables cooked in their own liquid, where a tajine is normally filled in a ‘less pretty’ way and filled with vegetables with fish or meat. Both are prepared in a good looking ceramic oven dish. The lid of a tajine guarantees slow cooking. A tian is supposed to have a nice crust.
Today I was so lucky to buy a San Pietro (zonnevis in Dutch) or John Dory. Reading more online I found the etymological explanation :’The John Dory is one of the most distinctive fish in the Mediterranean, and also one of the most expensive — the bony head and gut account for a significant percentage of the fish’s weight, and therefore you get less edible fish for your money than is true with many other fish. Fortunately, what you do get is quite good, and splits easily into four boneless filets.
The other interesting thing about the fish is the pair of spots on its sides; one tradition holds that when Saint Peter caught one it made distressed noises at him, at which point he tossed it back into the sea, and in doing so squeezed its sides, leaving the finger marks we still find today. Another says it was the fish that gave Saint Peter the Coin with which to render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s, and again the spots are the marks made by Peter’s fingers.‘🙃
The fishmonger was not convinced the fish was big enough for 2p but I convinced him that we would add a large portion of vegetables. A cook book of Alain Ducasse inspired me to prepare the following dish. Preboil 500 grams of potatoes for 5 minutes. Cool down and slice. Slice 4 green tomatoes. Slice 2 large fresh onions and 4 garlic cloves.
Oil a medium sized tajine. Spread the potatoes, tomatoes and onions alternatively in the dish. Create a second layer if needed, but season each layer with pepper, salt and dried thyme in between the layers. Finish the garlic and brush 1 table spoon on the surface.
Bake in the oven at 200° for approximately 1-1,5h ( the potatoes have to be almost ready). Cover the dish after the first 40 minutes.
Open the fish and remove the intestines ( or ask the nice fishmonger to take care of it 😉). Season with pepper and salt. Put a few stems of fresh thyme in and on the fish for extra flavor. Brush some oil on the fish.
Put back in the oven and bake for another 20 minutes ( 10 minutes uncovered and later covered to prevent becoming too dry) . 😋
What a delicate and beautiful fish, but any other tasty fish can be used for this recipe.