Looking good – Thai Beef Curry

My one son wanted to take food to the army for the week, as he always does. He’s not a fan of army food. I told him to please take the meat balls from Shabbat because I wanted to keep the beef curry so I could take a picture of it for my blog. My daughter quickly piped up, “But the beef looks like crap now!”. True, it had been made the day before and had spent the night in the fridge, so didn’t look as pristine as it had when it was fresh out of the slow cooker. But still, I wanted to share this wonderful recipe on my blog, and that meant taking a picture. So I took this as a challenge and got to work. Instead of my usual quick snap with my SmartPhone, I made a little bit of an effort, hauled out the big guns, my Canon EOS 760D, and set out to prove my daughter wrong.

I hope you enjoy the result. I promise to do better with my photography in the future, as long as my family doesn’t eat everything before I have a chance to make it pretty for a photo shoot.

But back to the food. That’s why we’re here after all. This is a simple and delicious slow cooked beef curry that relies on a red Thai curry paste that can be bought pretty much everywhere these days. If I can find it in my little supermarket in the boonies of Israel (seriously, I shop in a supermarket that is surrounded by orchards), then anyone can find it. If you don’t have a slow cooker, a couple of hours on low on the stove will also do the trick. But my slow cooker is one of my favorite appliances and I highly recommend buying one if you don’t have one yet. They’re very inexpensive and turn the toughest cut of meat into a tender delicious feast.

RED THAI BEEF CURRY

Ingredients

2 kg stewing beef cut into chunks

2 tablespoons oil

2 medium sized onions chopped

4 tablespoons red Thai curry paste

4 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

800 ml (28 oz / 2 cans) coconut cream

400 ml (14 oz) chicken stock

4 teaspoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

4 kaffir lime leaves (optional)

Juice of 1 lime or lemon

1 can baby corn cobs sliced thickly

200g (7 oz) mangetout/sugar snap peas topped, tailed and cut into bite sized pieces

2 carrots finely julienned

1 bunch asparagus cut into bite sized pieces (optional)

2 large red peppers thinly sliced

Coriander leaves roughly chopped to garnish

How to do it

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan or skillet and fry the onion over medium heat for a few minutes till it starts softening. Add the curry paste and ginger and stir for a minute or so. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, stock, sugar and lime leaves and bring to the boil, stirring.
  2. Lightly grease the slow cooker pot and add the beef pieces. Pour the sauce over the beef, cover and cook on low heat for 8-9 hours, until the beef is very soft.
  3. After 8-9 hours, add the vegetables, mix through, and cook for another 15 minutes or until the vegetables are just cooked. (Don’t overcook the mangetout. They should be very crunchy.) Add the lime/lemon juice once it’s all cooked. Serve hot.
  4. If you don’t have a slow cooker, after Step 1, add the beef to a large pot, cover with the sauce. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat, and simmer covered for about 1½-2 hours or until the beef is very soft, then add the carrots, peppers asparagus and corn, mix through and cook for another 20 minutes. When they are just soft, add the mangetout, mix through and turn off the heat. Add the lime/lemon juice.
  5. Garnish with roughly chopped coriander leaves.

Serve with white rice. Serves about 8.

 

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Creamy Pumpkin Risotto for a Rainy Day

I love pumpkin. I’m sure I am repeating myself. But I just love the texture, the subtle taste and the delightfully bright color. It’s the perfect vegetable to brighten up those dreary winter days. Whenever I see those lovely big chunks of pumpkin on the shelf of my green grocer, I cannot resist. I grab one and look for ways to use it at home. Here’s a very comforting way to turn pumpkin into a delicious dairy side dish or main dish for vegetarians.

Risotto is such a wonderful comfort food. It’s not as daunting as all those cooking shows would have you believe. You don’t have to stand over the pot every second and stir, but it does require a little more loving attention than a regular pot of rice. And the result is just yummy. My second vegetable is zucchini because I have people in my house who hate mushrooms, but you can substitute mushrooms instead if you’re a fan. And please don’t scimp on the parmesan cheese – it makes the dish.

PUMPKIN RISOTTO

Ingredients

3 teaspoons + 4 teaspoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium-sized onion finely diced

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1-2 cups diced pumpkin (the pieces should be quite small – about 1½ cm / ½ an inch

1 medium-sized zucchini diced or about 8-10 white mushrooms diced (or both if you want)

1½ cups arborio (risotto) rice

4-5 cups hot stock (parev chicken or vegetable)

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper

½-¾ cup finely grated parmesan cheese

How to do it

  1. In a medium sized pot (preferably non-stick but not essential) melt the 3 teaspoons butter and olive oil. Add the onion and fry on medium heat until soft (not brown). Add the garlic and stir together for about a minute (do not let it burn).
  2. Add the rice and stir it into the onion and garlic until the rice is well coated in the oil. Stir in the pumpkin and the zucchini / mushrooms. Mix well.
  3. Increase the heat to high and add 1 cup of the stock and stir the mixture well until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium heat and allow the liquid to simmer, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Then add another cup of liquid, and stir it in, stirring now and again. When that is absorbed, add some more liquid, and repeat this process until the rice is just cooked (don’t overcook the rice, so add smaller amounts of liquid each time after the 2nd cup, and keep tasting). Make sure that not all the liquid cooks away – a good risotto should be just slightly runny and not stodgy. This should take about 15 minutes.
    Note – you don’t have to use all the stock once you see that your rice is cooked and the consistency is right.
  4. Add the extra 4 teaspoons butter and stir well till it’s melted.
  5. Turn off the heat and add the salt and freshly ground pepper, parsley and parmesan cheese, and stir well through the mixture. Serve immediately.

Serves about 6 as a side dish

The Joys of Cape Curry

I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, where local curry dishes were as common in my house as chicken soup (maybe even more). Barely a week went by without us eating curried chicken or fish. We always had Cape Malay-style curry, made with curry spices and tomatoes, with chutney, coconut and sliced bananas on the side. To some it may sound exotic, to us it was just a regular Wednesday night meal.

Over the years, I’ve loved tasting and cooking various types of curries from all parts of Asia. But when winter comes, and comfort food is a must, this is the curry I always make for my family. It takes me back to Cape Town and to the flavors of the Cape.

This recipe takes a little more effort because I always pan fry the chicken pieces before baking them, and par-boil the potatoes. These extra steps are all very worthwhile. If not, I would not subject you to them. My kids are always in awe of how the potatoes come out, so I wouldn’t take any short cuts there.

For this dish I use pre-mixed curry powder. Happily, I can buy South African curry powder in Israel, but you can also use other regular curry powder mixes. If you want to make your own, I’ve added that option.

CAPE MALAY STYLE CURRIED CHICKEN

Ingredients

1 chicken cut into 10 pieces plus an extra 3 thighs, legs and 6 extra wings.

1 cup flour season with salt, pepper and garlic powder

Oil for frying

4-6 large potatoes peeled and cut into about 6-8 pieces each

2 large onions chopped in large pieces

2 red peppers sliced

4 large very ripe tomatoes (peeled – optional)

400g (14oz) tomato paste

3 tablespoons curry paste*

1 red chili pepper finely chopped (use half if you don’t want it too hot)

1 tablespoon chicken soup powder

About 2-3 cups boiling water

How to do it

  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan or skillet (I have 2 going at once to save time). Roll each chicken piece in the flour and brown each piece in the oil on all sides, and place at the bottom of a large sprayed roasting pan. Do not discard the oil from the chicken and don’t discard the remaining flour.
  2. Par boil the potatoes in a pot of salted water, bringing to the boil for about 10 minutes or until a potato just starts to yield to a fork. Drain and add them to the chicken.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF)
  4. In the pan with the chicken oil, fry the onions and peppers over medium high heat until soft (not browned). Add the chili and stir for a minute or so. Chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan and let them simmer for a few minutes until they start melting.
  5. Turn the heat down to low, and add the tomato paste, curry powder or spices  and the chicken soup powder and stir until a thick paste forms.
  6. Add about 4-5 tablespoons of the remaining flour, and stir together. Add the boiling water slowly, stirring until the paste turns into thick but runny sauce (don’t make it too water but make sure it is running enough to coat all the chicken pieces and form a nice sauce.) Pour over the dish.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, turn the oven down to 180ºC (350ºF) and bake for another 20 minutes and remove the white meat. Sturn the chicken pieves over and gently turn the potatoes over as well so they cook evenly. Continue baking the dark meat pieces until the meat starts coming away from the bone of the leg.
  8. Serve with white or brown rice. Serves about 10.

*To make your own curry spice, combine 1½ teaspoons coriander seeds, 2 teaspoons fennel, ground (or 4 teaspoons whole fennel seeds), 1½ teaspoons ground cumin, 2 tablespoons ginger, fresh, finely chopped, 1 teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground, 15 cardamom pods (whole pods), ½ teaspoon cinnamon, 1 tablespoon garam masala. Mash all the spices together in a pestle and mortar.

 

Simplest Oven Veggies

Thanksgiving is sneaking up on us. With so many dishes to prepare, it’s always good to have an easy side dish that requires minimal effort and ingredients. This one fits the bill. It’s a 4 veggie oven baked vegetable dish with a flavor boost from none other than a bit of onion soup powder. I’m not a huge proponent of adding fake flavoring, so look for a powder without too many nasty preservatives. Don’t leave it out though because it gives nice flavor.

Originally I used to have potatoes in this dish, with the cauliflower, zucchini and carrots, but recently I entertained friends who don’t eat carbs, and I tried fennel instead of potato. What a huge difference. Not only does this substitue make the dish lighter, it also adds a great boost of flavor. I will not go back to potatoes for this one.

Here’s another tip: If you don’t yet have an oil sprayer, go out and buy one (look for one that doesn’t need pumping). They are a great way to get all the vegetables coated in oil without making the dish very oily. And you’ll use it for so many other dishes too.

The main thing here is patience – don’t under cook the veggies or they will lack flavor – let them get nice and browned to bring out all their natural sweetness.

OVEN BAKED VEGGIES

Ingredients

1 medium-sized head of cauliflower, rinsed, dried and cut into bite- sized florettes

4 medium sized zucchinis, sliced lengthways and then sliced into fat slices (about 1-2cm / half an inch)

4 medium-sized carrots peeled and sliced in thick slices

1 large fennel bulb with the top and bottom cut off and cut into about 12 pieces.

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Ground kosher salt

2 tablespoons onion soup powder

How to do it

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF)
  2. Pour a thin layer of olive oil into a medium-sized baking dish, or line an oven tray with baking paper and drizzle the oil onto the paper and spread it evenly on the bottom. Throw all the vegetables into the dish.
  3. Sprinkle the onions soup powder over the top and toss the vegetables around a little. If not all the veggies are lightly coated in oil, spray some extra oil over them. Grinks some salt over the top.
  4. Bake for 1-1.5 hours, stirring everying half an hour or so, until the veggies are nice and golden brown, and all cooked through.

Serve hot. Serves about 6 as a side dish.

Curried Quinoa Ahead of Autumn

When my kids were little, we were members of a swimming pool at a nearby moshav. It would always amuse me when, on September 1, in anticipation of a barely noticable drop in temperature following our very hot Augusts, the pool would discernably empty out during this still pretty sweltering month. The reason, people would tell me, was that it just wasn’t very hot any more. This 3 or so degree difference put everyone into a fall state of mind, while we would enjoy the virtual privacy of the swimming pool.

A couple of weeks, when I threw together a rustic curried quinoa dish to feed my vegan relatives, I reminded myself of those premature celebrators of the end of summer. Even though the mercury is still way up there, I gathered a bunch of autumn veggies, and put together a tummy warming curried quinoa dish. It was one of those ” this is what I’ve got in the fridge” moments, that worked out really well.

The advantages of this dish is that it’s vegan and can work well as a main dish if you’re not going for animal proteins. It also takes about 20 minutes to prepare. And now that I’ve added it to my reportoire, I will definiely be making this again as the temperatures (eventually) drop towards winter.

CURRIED QUINOA AND VEGETABLES

Ingredients

1 cup of quinoa cooked according to the directions on the package

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 medium sized carrots finely diced

1 large onion finely diced

1 medium sized zucchini diced

About 2 cups of pumpkin diced

2-3 medium sized very ripe tomatoes peeled and diced

About 1 tablespoon of medium strength curry powder (or to taste)

2-3 tablespoons of chutney or 2 teaspoons brown sugar (use chutney if you have it)

Salt and pepper

How to do it

  1. Cook the quinoa in a small pot
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, dice all the vegetables. In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the carrots, and stir for about a minute or two, Then add the onions and saute for another few minutes until the carrots just start getting soft. Then add the zucchini and the pumpkin and saute until they are both cooked.
  3. Add the tomatoes and the curry powder and cook until the tomatoes just start breaking down (about 3-4 minutes).
  4. Add the chutney or brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix through.
  5. Add the cooked quinoa to the vegetables and mix through thoroughly.

Serve hot. Serves 4 as a main dish and 6-8 as a side dish

Grandma Cooked Gourmet – A Winning Recipe Book

Taking a step aside from my usual recipe posts, I want to share a special story with you.

“Grandma Cooked Gourmet” is a book of recipes of Holocaust survivors. The project to create this book was initiative of the Shorashim non-profit organizion, which helps two communities in Israel that are in need of assistance: elderly people who live alone, and the Ethiopian community, which has many struggling single-parent households.

To create the book, 24 holocaust survivors collaborated with 24 top Israeli chefs. Each survivor cooked their own specialty dish the chef’s restuarant, with the chef as their personal sous-chef. The chef then created a more modern version using the same ingredients. The book offers both versions of each recipe, as well as a short write-up about the histroy of each survivor.

This year, the book won the third place in the prestigious Gourmand awards category for the Best Cookbook in the World. It also won second place in the Best Non-Profit Cookbook category earned a Best in the World stamp by Gourmand, the world’s leading cookbook competition.

See this video to learn a bit more about this wonderful project. You can see more clips of all 48 chefs in action on this web page, although they are mainly in Hebrew.

All expenses to publish the book came from donations, including the chefs and photographers. The book is now on sale, and proceeds go to buying more food packages and appliances for the communities that Shorashim supports. You can buy a copy of the book our supported community. Send an email to shorashimbook@gmail.com. The book is available in Hebrew and English so request the language you want. You can also buy the book at selected stores in Israel – click here and scroll down for the list of stores, including those that sell the book in English.

I haven’t yet tried out the recipes, but I will be getting a copy of the book next week and I can’t wait to get busy in my kitchen with these wonderful recipes. This is a project that is so touching and creative, and I urge you all to support it. (I have no personal connection to the Shorashim organization or to any of the participants in the project. I am just a fan.)

 

Greetings from Belgrade

Serbian Spinach Pie

I just spent a glorious week in Belgrade, Serbia. Not an obvious choice for a vacation, but I traveled for a baseball tournament and found myself in an city not quite on the European tourist map, and I could not have been happier. Turns out that this underappreciated and underrated city one of the world’s great culinary gems. The restaurants are all beautifully appointed, each with its own distinct design flair. You have to look very far to find a run of the mill diner or coffee shop. In a week of schlepping around, I did not see one. Then there’s the food. Wow! Serbians have a way with it. Their local cuisine, while heavy on the meat, also embraces cheeses, pastas and vegetables, all fresh and handled with great affection. Their historic and geographic connections with Greece and Italy have turnd Serbia into a hub for great food. Step aside Paris and Rome – Belgrade is the upstart culinary heart of Europe.

One of the many delicious dishes I tasted was the traditional Serbian spinach pie, known locally as Pita Zeljanica (no actual pita is involved). This dish is a cousin of the Greek spanakopita with a more delicate cheese flavor. A waiter in a restaurant insisted we try it – Serbian wait staff are amazing when it comes to recommending the right thing to eat. You tell them what you want and then then tell you to order something else, and they’re always right. Trust them.

When I got home, I had to share this experience with my kids. Here’s a recipe that’s not exactly like what I ate because there’s less dough and more filling, but I like that, so I’m sharing here. I like the filling to be less salty, so I don’t add salty cheese but you can experiment with half cottage and half feta. Most of the process is simple, until you get to the filo, which is a bit finicky, but worth it. This pie is huge, and it’s quite heavy so it serves a bunch of people. And added bonus, it reheats really well. Keep this one on file for Shavuot.

Serbian Spinach Pie (Pita Zeljanica)

Ingredients

1.2kg (2.5lb) fresh spinach, cleaned, torn into smaller pieces
500g (1lb) grated hard yellow cheese
500g (1lb) cottage cheese (use high fat) – you can substitute half with feta cheese.
3 tablespoons sour cream
½ cup milk
6 large beaten eggs
½ cup flour
½ cup yellow corn meal
1 teaspoon salt and some fresh ground black pepper
8 sheets thawed filo dough (read instructions for thawing on the box)
75g (3oz) melted butter

How to do it

  1. In a large pan or wok, sautee the spinach until its completely wilted (about 3 minutes). I do it in batches so it’s easier to deal with such a large quantity. Place the spinach in a strainer when it’s done to drain all fluids. Allow to cool off. Then squeeze as much of the excess water off as you can.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cheeses, sour cream, milk, eggs, flour, corn meal, salt, pepper and spinach.
  4. Melt the butter in a small pot on the stove over low heat.
  5. Lightly brush a 34x22cm (13×9-inch) baking pan with a little of the melted butter. Lay down 1 sheet of the filo dough, lightly brush it all over with butter. Continue with another 3 sheets, buttering each layer as you go
  6. Spread filling over filo base. Lay down another sheet of filo dough, brush it with butter and add 3 more sheets of filo, buttering each layer, and butter the top layer generously. Trim the excess edges of the filo and tuck whatever you can trim into the pie.
  7. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top is goldenbrown and the filling is set (when a knife inserted comes out clean).
  8. Allow to cool down a little before serving.

Serve with a crisp green salad.

Serves about 8.

Light Dairy Pasta for Shavuot

Shavuot – that festival of cheese, cream, milk and indigestion! Often, this one-time-a-year excuse to load our food with diary products results in lactose overkill. Instead of overdoing the dairy, how about a dish that’s light on the diary, heavier on the veggies and the result is tasty and easy on the digestive system.

This is a recipe I threw together when I was vacationing at my sister-in-law’s cottage in Ontario last summer. Our niece was having a birthday, and because she’s a vegetarian, we made a diary vegetarian meal, with the whole extended family pitching in with their contributions – lots of fun and good food.

I opened the fridge and did a bit of forraging. There was a bag of fresh spinach, some sun dried tomatoes, piles of cheese, so I went to work on making a fresh vegetable-based pasta sauce. It went down really well. I made it again recently, trying to remember what I had done. Not sure it’s exactly the same recipe, but it’s one of those recipes that you can adjust according to your own taste (or what’s in the fridge!). Just don’t skip the spinach – it makes the dish. And please, for the love of all that is edible, use fresh spinach only. That frozen stuff is evil and does not in any way resemble spinach as nature intended it.

FRESH SPINACH VEGETABLE PASTA

Ingredients

500 g (1lb) penne pasta (or similar large hardy noodle)

2 tablespoons olive oil

10-15 sun dried tomatoes in oil chopped (not too small)

6-8 cloves of garlic thinly sliced

2 medium sized zucchinis quartered and sliced

2-3 cups of cherry tomatoes quartered

Salt and ground pepper

A pinch of dried oregano

A pinch of dried basil, or a few shredded fresh basil leaves

300 g (10 oz) fresh baby spinach leaves washed

200 g (7oz) Tzfatit cheese or any hard white salty cheese diced into small cubes

Water from the pasta pot

Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

How to do it

  1. Add the olive oil to a large skillet or wok and turn the gas to medium high. Add the sun dried tomatoes, zucchini and garlic and saute till the zucchini starts getting soft (about 5 minutes), stirring every now and again.
  2. Make the pasta in a large pot of salted water.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, add the tomatoes and herbs to the skillet and allow to simmer on low heat till the tomatoes start breaking down. After the tomatoes are softened, add about a cup of the water from the pasta pot to the skillet, and stir and continue to simmer for a few minutes, until the pasta is cooked. Add just enough liquid so that you start getting a sauce, but don’t add too much water so that you dilute the flavors.
  4. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet or wok (if it’s big enough; if not, return the pasta to the post and add the vegetables to the pot.)
  5. Add the spinach leaves. The heat from the pasta and the sauce will wilt the leaves. If you are using a heavier spinach leaf, then keep the flame on low heat only just until the spinach is wilted – you don’t want to over cook the spinach.
  6. Add the slaty cheese and toss together, and sprinkle some parmesan over the top to serve. Serve immediately. (You can make the first part of the sauce ahead of time – till step 4).

Serves about 6.

 

Cold Borscht without the Patchkie

Bosrcht

If there’s anything that conjurs up memories of growing up in a Lithuanian Jewish home in South Africa, it’s cold borscht (or what we simply called beetroot soup) in the summer. There were always large mason jars filled with soup in the fridge in the summer, and it was a great snack or first course for any dairy meal. We would always eat it with a dollop of sour or regular cream, with finely chopped cucumber. If someone was feeling energetic, maybe a boiled baby potato would find its way into the bowl, but if not, that was also fine.

Oddly enough, until not bvery long ago, I had never made beetroot soup myself, for a couple of reasons: Firstly, the gentlemen in my family do not like beets, and secondly, in Israel, beets are very sadly sold devoid of their stems and leaves. My late mother always made her soup with the whole beet, including the stalks and leaves, which were my favorite part. Without them, I don’t believe the soup would taste as good. I’m very likely wrong, but it’s my schtick.

A few weeks ago, to my joy, my greengrocer was selling whole bunches of beets. I grabbed a bunch and finally made my first pot of cold borscht. There are so many recipes out there that over complicate this very simple dish. This recipe is simple, and you can add whatever accompaniments you like. But the basic recipe keeps ingredients, and patchkie, to a minumum and it works well. At the very least, it tastes just like my mother’s!

COLD BORSCHT

Ingredients

1 bunch of beets (about 6 small beets) with stems and leaves

Cold water (about 2 liters/quarts) to more than cover the beets

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons of vinegar

Sugar to taste

Salt and pepper

Accompaniments: Finely chopped cucumber, sour cream or sweet cream, small boiled baby potatoes

How to do it

  1. Very thouroughly wash the beets so there is no grit left. Cut the beet bulbs off the stems, and peel and cut in half. Grate them in a food processor on the coarse blade. Chop the stems into half inch/1.5 cm pieces. Shred the leaves.
  2. Put all the beet parts into a large pot and cover with the water – water should be about 4cm (2 inches) above the level of the beets. Being to the boil and reduce to a simmer for about half an hour (or until the beets are cooked through). Note: If you don’t have a food processor, you can boild the beet halves for about half an hour or until a fork can slide into the beets, and then hand grate them. Don’t over cook them because they will coninue cooking with the stems and leaves for about 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and add sugar (about 1-2 tablespoons).
  4. Allow to cool completely, and then add the lemon juice vinegar and salt and pepper. Keep tasting till you get the right level of acidity.
  5. Serve cold with whatever accompaniments you like.

Serves about 8.

Sensational Fish Soup

Fish Soup

Whether we like it or not, us kosher cooks are sometimes limited when it comes to certain flavors. The iconic bouillabaisse is a case in point, with its distinctive flavors drawn from the mix of seafood used to make the dish. Whenever I see recipes for any type of fish soup, seafood is a requirement, so…next! It’s disappointing.

Last week, I came across a New York Times recipe for Fish Soup, where the main ingredient was actually just fish. I got very excited and I immediately tested it out. It was everything it promised to be. It had that perfect taste of the sea, with a flavorful tomato base. The dish is light and healthy, but is still excellent comfort food for the winter.

Make this and impress your friends and family. It’s a good one!

You can serve this as a main course or a first course – my quantities here are for a first course. You can prepare the soup ahead of time and heat it up just before you want to cook the fish. Make sure you have some hot crusty fresh bread to go along with it.

Ingredients

1 kg (2 lbs) firm white-fleshed fish fillets, skin removed – I used “mussar yam” (Red Drum), you can also use “locus” (Bass), “denis” (sea bream) or cod

6 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

6-8 anchovy fillets, soaked in water for 4 minutes, drained and rinsed

Olive oil

1-2 large onions, chopped

3 sticks of celery, diced

medium carrots, diced

Salt

1.2 kg (42 ounces) canned chopped tomatoes (a big can and small can)

1.5 liters water

800g (1.5 lb) small baby potatoes, washed and quartered (they should be small bite sized pieces). 

A bouquet garni of 2 bay leaves, a few sprigs of fresh parsley, a few sprigs of fresh thyme (use half a teaspoon of dried thyme if you don’t have fresh), half a red chilli (deseeded) or a whole one if you want a little more spice in the soup – tied together with string (if you don’t have string kicking around, don’t worry)

Freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup of chopped fresh parsley

How to do it

  1. In a pestle and mortar crush the garlic cloves, ½ a teaspoon salt and the anchovy fillets and mash. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, crush the garlic in a garlic press, chop the anchovies as finely as possible with a knife and mix together well in a small bowl with the salt. Set aside
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large soup pot and add the onion, celery, carrot and ½ a teaspoon of salt, and saute until the onion is tender, about five minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and anchovy and stir together, cooking for another about 1 minute. Smell that!
  4. Add the tomatoes, bring to the boil and turn down the heat and simmer, stirring every now and again, for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Add the water, potatoes, salt to taste, and the bouquet garni. (If you don’t have string, throw all the components in to the soup and fish them out before you serve.) Bring the soup to a simmer, turn the heat to low, cover partially and let simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and add pepper to taste. Remove the bouquet garni  when it’s finished simmering.
  6. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper on both sides, and stir the fish into the hot soup. The soup should not be boiling. Simmer for five to 10 minutes or just until the fish falls apart when poked with a fork. When the fish fillets are cooked, pull the fish apart into smaller pieces.
  7. Remove from the heat, stir in the chopped parsley, and add more seasoning if required.

Serves about 8 as a side dish