Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Ceebu Jen – a rice and fish dish from Senegal

One of my neighbors recently had a baby, and a mutual friend cooked up an amazing celebratory lunch for the family and invited a half-dozen more of us to join in. He explained that you can’t make Ceebu Jen for a small number of people. It was a dish the village he lived in in Senegal, would make for special occasions. It was delicious, and I asked my friend how to make it. His recipe follows, albeit in text form rather than “ingredients and directions”. Enjoy! -Jillian

Ceebu Jen, Senegalese rice and fish

The dish is “Ceebu Jen” in the non-official Wolof orthography. The name means “rice and fish” or more literally “the rice’s fish” if you care to translate directly from Wolof to English.

Usually made with ocean fish (the preferred fish is a kind of grouper) but I made mine with catfish. Meaty filets such as swordfish also work well, but in my opinion catfish is more flavorful.

In a deep soup pot, fry the fish in several lots (careful not to crowd the pot) in more hot oil than you’d later care to own up to when asked (I used canola but in Senegal they’d use peanut oil). Feel free to liberally sprinkle the frying fish with black pepper. Remove fish and keep covered.

Have water pre-measured and standing nearby (two cups of water per one cup of rice to be cooked). Before adding the water, throw a whole lotta minced garlic into the hot oil and stir quickly. Allow to brown slightly but not burn (should only take a few seconds). Stop the garlic carnage by pouring all the water into the pot at once – carefully! Don’t get burned by splashing up hot oil!

Add two Maggi cubes per cup of water to the pot (or twice the recommended amount of any good, beef-flavored soup base).

Splash in about one-eighth cup of cider vinegar. Add tomato paste in the following (wildly approximate) proportion: about one tablespoon per cup of water. Stir as it heats, until the Maggi/soup base and tomato paste are dissolved. Allow to come to a rolling boil.

Into the boiling pot of broth, I usually put in some combination of the following vegetables: carrots, eggplant, cabbage, sweet potato, manioc/cassava/yucca. Cut the vegetables into pieces of a size that each type of vegetable will cook in about the same amount of time (e.g. – bigger pieces of softer veggies, smaller pieces of harder vegetables). Always make sure the chunks of cabbage have some stem attached so it doesn’t simply break into individual leaves; if using large eggplants, choose the smallest you can find and cut in half only (no more) otherwise the smaller pieces will just cook away into nothing. Remove vegetables when cooked and keep covered.

To the pot, return any broth that has accumulated inside the containers where the fish and veggies are being kept. Add more tomato paste (in about the same proportions as before). Allow to return to a rolling boil and stir to dissolve the tomato paste.

Add the rice to the pot (remember: one cup of rice to two cups of pre-measured water). Return just to the boil, stir briefly to break up clumps of rice, turn to low/simmer and cover. Leave the rice undisturbed to cook, about twenty minutes for 2-4 cups of rice, about thirty to forty minutes for larger quantities. Check the rice after about half an hour. Once the rice along the edge of the pot is cooked, stir any remaining broth into the rice and allow it to be absorbed. Turn off the heat and allow the covered pot to sit for ten minutes.

Turn the cooked rice into a large bowl (at least 24 inch diameter). If you’re lucky, there will be some burned and crunchy rice stuck to the bottom of the pot. Allow that yummy stuff to cool a bit, then scrape it out with the edge of a spoon and save in a separate bowl – to be served like croutons on top of the finished product.

Now, arrange some of the fish in the center of the plain bowl of rice, flanked by a variety of cooked vegetables. Serve with lime wedges and habanero hot sauce. Sprinkle burnt rice ‘croutons’ over everything if you got ’em. Tastes best when eaten by hand out of the one large central bowl.