North African Spicy Fish

Chreime is a North African dish made from a firm white fish, such as grouper, amberjack, sea bass, grey mullet, carp or even the dreaded rat of the lake, Nile perch. Here in Israel it is typically served for one of the major Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashana or Passover, but it can really be served any time.

This is another dish that I have been wanting to make for a long time, but always thought I had to buy expensive fish to make it with. I had some Nile perch in my freezer that I had been dreading to make something with, and I say dreading because it is really not my favourite fish, but my husband seems to like it.

Nile perch is considered to be the rat of the lake because it will eat all of the other fish around it. It is one of the largest freshwater fish and reaches a maximum length of nearly two meters (more than six feet), weighing up to 200 kg (440 lb). It has a rather strong flavour, so this recipe was perfect to cover the fishiness of this fish. The other great thing about Nile perch is that it is inexpensive and easy to find at every Israeli supermarket, so it is perfect for the strange and stressful times were are all living in.

The recipe I used called for 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper. Now, I love spicy food, but I was too chicken to make it with that much cayenne, so I used 2 teaspoons. Next time, I will use 3 teaspoons. And if you are not crazy about caraway, well too bad, it is the secret weapon in this recipe, so don’t omit it.

Mr. BT and I really enjoyed this dish and I will definitely make it again. I would like to try it with grouper or sea bass sometime, but Nile perch definitely worked.


Serving Size: 4 to 6

1kg (2lb 2oz) white firm fish (grouper, amberjack, haddock, cod, sea bass, grey mullet, carp or Nile perch), cut through the bone into thick slices or use thick fillets

1/3 cup oil (don't waste extra virgin on this)

10 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons Moroccan or good quality Hungarian sweet paprika

1 tablespoon (or less) cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground caraway

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2-3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup water

Heat the oil in a large shallow pan. Add the garlic and spices and fry over high heat while stirring until the oil becomes aromatic. Add the tomato paste and stir until blended. Add the water and cook with a covered pot for about 5 minutes.

Add the fish to the sauce, bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat. If the sauce does not completely cover the fish, turn them halfway through the cooking.

Cook for about 10 minutes or until the fish is flaky. Serve with couscous.

The Veal Shank Redemption

Okay, I know the title is a bit lame, but the photo of the food is even lamer. I forgot to check the batteries on my camera and when I tried to take the photo, the batteries were dead. I had to take a picture with my phone camera instead. Oh well.

Beef and veal have been very expensive here the last several months and we decided that it just wasn’t worth spending our hard earned money on expensive meat. However, the supermarket up the road from our house had veal shanks on sale and I couldn’t resist. They were 50NIS (14USD or 9.80Euro) per kilo. So, I bought two meaty ones.

I found an interesting North African style recipe for osso bucco.  This  recipe would normally be made with lamb. It was very easy to make and absolutely delicious. It was fall-off-the-bone tender and it has a very distinct spicy kick from the chili paste, which we both like. Next time I will add a little more of the spices because they got a bit lost. I only detected a slight taste of cinnamon and nutmeg. I served it with lemon orzo and green peas.

This is a recipe you could easily make the day before.

Moroccan-Style Veal Shanks

Serving Size: 4

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 meaty veal shanks (about 1/2 kilo or 1 1/4 pounds each)

Salt and freshly ground pepper (no salt if you are using kosher meat)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon harissa or other chili paste

1 cup dry red wine

1 cup chicken stock

One large can crushed tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 170F (325F). In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season the shanks with salt and pepper. Add them to the casserole, 2 at a time, and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and wipe out the casserole.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the casserole. Add the onion, carrots and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and cook, stirring until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and harissa and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and boil until reduced to a thick syrup, about 4 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and the chicken stock to the casserole. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Put the veal shanks in the liquid. Cover tightly and braise in the oven for about 3 hours, basting occasionally, until the meat is almost falling off the bone.

Some Like It Hot

My husband and I both love good Chinese food and since it is impossible to find good Chinese food in Israel, we have to wait until we go to London or the States. However, I did learn to make Chinese food from my grandparent’s Chinese cook, Ying. She is a master in the kitchen and was a great teacher. She really understands the science behind cooking, whether she is explaining how to cook various types of meats and poultry or baking. She also taught me a lot about the balance of flavours and how important that is in Chinese cooking. One flavour should not necessarily stand out more than the other; it should be a marriage of ingredients. I had so much fun learning from her. We even took a French pastry course together. She was raised in Vietnam, so she already knew quite a bit about French cooking, but she enjoyed the course, just the same.

My husband was away for his birthday and we celebrated it when he came back. I made him one of our favourites, Szechuan Chicken with Cashews. The heat from the chili paste and the crunch from the cashews make this dish. This dish is spicy, so if you can’t stand the heat, you might want to use one teaspoon of chili paste instead of two. If you like very spicy Thai or Indian food, like we do, you could add another half a teaspoon. I served this over Thai rice.

This recipe looks like it has a lot of steps, but it is very easy to make.

Szechuan Chicken with Cashews

Serving Size: 4

600g boneless, skinless, chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 2cm (3/4-inch) pieces

1 egg white

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

Pinch of black pepper

1 large yellow or red bell pepper

1 medium yellow onion

1 head of broccoli, separated into florets

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon cold water

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

1 cup raw cashew nuts

1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger root

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

2 teaspoons chili paste

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons chopped green onion

Mix the egg white, 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce and the black pepper in a medium bowl; stir in the chicken. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the bell pepper into 2cm (3/4-inch) pieces. Cut the onion into 16 pieces and cut the broccoli in to small florets.

Combine the 1 tablespoon cornstarch, water and 1 tablespoon light soy sauce in a small bowl.

Heat the wok on high, and when it is very hot, add the 2 tablespoons of peanut oil; tilting the wok to coat the sides. Add the cashews and stir-fry them for about one minute or until lightly browned. Remove the cashews from the wok and drain them on a paper towel. Sprinkle them with salt.

Note: You can use roasted cashews, but obviously do not salt them and only add them at the last minute.

Add the chicken to the wok and stir-fry until the chicken turns a pale colour. Remove the chicken from the wok and set aside in a bowl or on a plate.

Add 2 tablespoons of peanut oil. Add the onion and ginger, and stir-fry until the ginger is light brown and the onion is translucent. Add the chicken, bell pepper, broccoli, hoisin sauce, cashews (if using roasted ones) and chili paste, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the broth and heat until boiling. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and stir for about 1 minute until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the cashews (if using raw ones) and green onions.

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