Archive for the ‘Fish’ Category

It’s been a very long time. I have been meaning to post some Gambian recipes, but it is not easy to get internet access. I am starting to get used to the african rhythm of life.

Steamed fish is something I have for breakfast here on the Smiling Coast. I think it would be appreciated for lunch or dinner in Canada though!

Here, access to electricity is never guaranteed, and most people don’t have refrigerators. That means instead that food is fresh fresh fresh because it is caught the day it is eaten, or picked the day it is sold. At the market, there are heaps of kani chilis, heaps of fish, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, squash, egg plant, bitter tomato, niambi, cassava, cabbage… and women greeting me everywhere in the hopes that the Toubab will be their customer. I greet them in wolof, and they laugh and say ‘this toubab understands wolof!’ And then the greetings begin.

Although this is a Gambian dish, it is definitely not one of the most common ones. I will post those recipes another time.

Ingredients – Serves 4
-4 lemons
-4 whole fish, fresh, gutted, scales removed, sides slit
-3 hot chili peppers (or more or less depending on your taste – here they use kani peppers)
-4 onions
-medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
-salt to taste
-2 Tbsp mustard
-2 tsp – black pepper
-1/2 cube vegetable stock
-1 head of lettuce, washed
-4 tomatoes, sliced
-1 1/2 cups water

Bring water to a boil. Add potatoes and boil until cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, clean the fish and wash.

Pound the hot chili peppers in a mortar and pestle. Add to the fish in a bowl. Add the juice 3 of the lemons, the mustard, and black pepper to the fish as well as the cube of broth.

Slice the onions and add to the fish. Stir well to coat everything in seasoning.

Remove the potatoes from the water, and remove a few tablespoonfuls of water so there is less than one inch of water at the bottom of the pan. Add fish and cover. Cook for 10 or so minutes or until fish is fully cooked. Add potatoes at the end and stir to season.

Wash the lettuce, and add the juice of the remaining lemon and some salt to the lettuce. Arrange lettuce on a large platter. Place fish and everything from the pot on top of the lettuce. Serve with slices of tomatoes and fresh crusty bread!

-Sitelle (Alias Yandé Saar)

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Scallops – Coquilles St. Jacques in French – are one of the family specials. In proper form, the ingredients are few: scallops, butter, cream, and parsley…

The night I arrived in my family’s village supper was from 8pm till 12:30am, and even so, we had to pry ourselves away before coffee was offered because I was so tired!

We began with soticot (tiny shrimp that were caught by one of my relatives), escargots, fresh crab… then a soup, a roast chicken, some cheese, dessert…  and so this recipe continues on the seafood theme that we live by here.

Ingredients – serves 4 as an appetizer

-16 – 20 scallops, sliced in half if they are large
-8 sprigs parsley, minced
-2 Tbsp butter
-1/2 cup crême fraiche


Wash and slice the scallops in half if they are large. Heat butter until it bubbles, over medium heat to sear each side for 3 minutes or so until they are golden-brown, and then simmer for a couple more minutes until they are gently cooked through. Add parsley, and cream. Melt cream over low heat over the scllops (avoid making it boil as it curdles). Serve with baguette crisps or other crisp bread, and a glass of dry white wine.

Bon appétit!


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Family dinners at the cottage are often more exciting than one bargains for.  Earlier this spring, my grandmother was given a whole frozen Arctic char.  She decided that the occasion to serve it would be for her 63rd wedding anniversary.  The dilemma was how to cook the fish?  No one in my family had ever attempted to cook a whole fish before, and certainly not a beautiful large Arctic char!

On their 63rd wedding anniversary, my grandparents enjoying an evening swim!

We decided to try to poach it.  My mother dug up from her basement, a dusty fish poacher given to her as a wedding gift over two decades ago (never once used).  I was to look up a recipe, and chose Martha Stewart’s court-bouillon recipe for poached salmon.  It looked simple, yet flavourful using fresh spring ingredients.  And the Arctic char would add the Canadian twist!

Cooking the fish proved to be more exciting than expected.  Our first excitement came when we realized I had forgotten the recipe at the grocery store.  Then, as it thawed,  we discovered it had yet to be gutted (my uncle saved us here).  Finally, half way through the poaching, my sister scraped the crown of her foot on a rock covered with zebra mussels. She suffered a series of cuts, but more seriously, a gash that proved to need stitches!  Realizing emergency might take a while, we decided to enjoy the fish and chocolate zucchini cake before taking my sister into town for stitches.  But really, what would a special dinner be at the cottage sans adventure?

The fish itself was delicious – succulent, flavourful, and soft – the 14 of us polished it off nicely.  Indeed, my mother thought it was so delicious that she decided to cook it the following week for a dinner party!

A feast of Arctic Char!

Poached Arctic Char

(serves 12-15)


1 bottle dry white wine

1/2 fresh fennel, sliced

2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

3 bay leaves

1 bouquet garni (1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley and 1 bunch thyme, tied together)

1/2 teaspoon peppercorns


1 large Arctic char, between 6-8 pounds, gutted (salmon substitutes beautifully)


Set the poacher diagonally over the stove so it touches two burners.  Place all the ingredients for the court-bouillon into the fish poacher.  Add water until the fish poacher is about 3/5th full.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

Gently lower the Arctic char into the court-bouillon.  Cook at a bare simmer for about 20 minutes.  Slide two wooden spoons through each handle of the rack, and lift it to remove the fish.  Serve on its own or with a creamy dill sauce.  (Be sure to freeze the stalk for another dish.) Poached Arctic char is perfect for special occasions!

– Catherine

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You might have noticed I’ve been away (thanks for the great posts, Catherine). I needed a break, some perspective. I was itching to see the world.

And in a way, I had been hoping that I could capture the essence of my adventure in Central America in a few words.  At least, the essence of what food is, in those tropical latitudes.  Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador (fleetingly), and Nicaragua. Perhaps I can.

Frijoles.  Huevos.  Sal.  Mas frijoles, mas huevos, mas sal.  Todos fritos.

Well, it appears that was easy.  I ate a tremendous amount of beans, eggs, and more salt than I thought I could deal with.  I thought there was a salt problem in Canada.  Perhaps the climate of constant sweating allows salt intakes to be higher, but I can’t imagine that much salt is ever a good idea.

And yet, as I think about all those beans and eggs I ate, I can remember many other exciting meals and snacks.  In fact, simplifying it to beans, eggs, and salt is not really fair at all, because although I probably did eat those every day, there were many, many other treats I discovered along the way, in homes, restaurants, chaotic buses, and markets.

Perhaps it will take me to the end of the summer, but I hope to share some of those meals and snacks I discovered along the way.  From the new ways to eat mangoes I learned in Belize, tamales of the Maya people thoughout, plantain tostones, absolutely delicious beef baho, to heavenly fruit throughout, I hope you will enjoy these recipes and treats as much as I did.

The first recipe I want to share with you is Caribbean Fish. Appropriately, it is the absolute first thing I ate upon landing in Belize City, and it was a common meal for the remainder of my time in Belize.  Soon, after I discovered I had chosen to go to Belize at the absolute hottest time of the year, I began to crave spicy food. This flavourful fish, combined with Marie Sharp’s famous hot hot hot sauce (unique in that it is carrot-based) and a Belikin Stout – was the perfect thing for the hot weather. And very soon, as I travelled southward to Hopkins, I discovered I could even watch the fishermen in the morning who would catch dinner for the village later that night.

Caribbean Fish

Serves 4


-2 whole large snappers, cleaned and gutted (or 4 small ones)
-8 sprigs fresh coriander, washed
-2 cloves garlic, germs removed, and sliced
-1-2 jalapenos, washed and sliced
-1 Tbsp ground black pepper
-2 tsp salt
-1 lime
-1-2 Tbsp cooking oil of your choice (canola, for example)

-Hotsauce, such as Marie Sharp’s if you are lucky enough to have some, or whatever is your favourite


Rince the fish and make 3 angled slashes on each side to stuff seasonings into the flesh. In a small bowl, mix the salt and pepper. Slice the garlic and jalapeno. Using your fingers, rub the salt and pepper mix into the slashes and the fish cavities, and sprinkle a bit over the skin. Then place a slice of jalapeno and a bit of garlic into each slash of all the fish. Stuff the remainder of the garlic and jalapeno, as well as the coriander sprigs, into the stomach cavity of the fish. Add a squirt of lime juice to each fish.

Leave the fish to marinate shortly (10-15 min) in the fridge before cooking.

Serve the fish with fried plantain, rice and beans, or whatever you like to accompany your fish with, as well as some hot-sauce if you feel like it.


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One night over Reading Week, after a long day of skiing with my sister and cousins, we made dinner for our parents. To jazz up our salmon, we decided to cook a creamy dill sauce. My cousin Dan expertly prepared the salmon, and my cousin Annie meticulously whisked away at the stove as I threw things into the pot. The recipe itself was an experiment, but the outcome was delicious: the delicate creamy dill sauce beautifully complementing the lemon-infused salmon.

As I write this, I am eating vegetarian for the month (adventures forthcoming) – but when I return to this fish, this will certainly be a repeatable menu item!


Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce
(8 servings)

8 salmon fillets
2 lemons
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups milk
Splash of white wine
A few dashes of Worcester sauce
1/3 cup finely chopped dill

Preheat the oven to broil (use the top element). Place the salmon fillets on a rack, and cover with thin lemon slices. Top with freshly ground salt and pepper to taste. Broil salmon for 10 minutes or until salmon begins to flake.

Meanwhile, create a roux in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the milk, the white wine, Worcester sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the béchamel to a boil, and allow to reduce gently for 3-4 minutes. Ideally, your sauce should thickly coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and gently stir in the dill.

Serve the salmon with the lemon slices intact – they should have caramelized beautifully. Spoon the delicate dill sauce over the salmon and enjoy!

– Catherine

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Sole Amandine

Fresh fish cooked simply always hits the spot. Cooked properly, the fish is crispy on the outside, flakey on the inside, and delicious throughout. Fish is also a protein that doesn’t need a lot of extras – it can shine on its own and takes minutes to cook. I was hungry for a springtime meal, and so I threw together a sole amandine and some guacamole, an odd combination, but for whatever reason makes me think of spring.

Sole amandine is pan-fried fish covered in slivered almonds. I also love using tilapia instead of sole. Indeed, you can amandine most good things in life – green beans and whipping cream being my two other favorites. I recommend you pick up generous fillets, because this fish just seems to melt in your mouth!


Sole Amandine
(2 servings)
2 sole fillets
¼ cup flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
½ teaspoon thyme
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup slivered or chopped almonds
Lemon slices
Heat a skillet until hot over medium heat. Mix the flour and seasoning on a plate, and dredge the fish. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter, and heat until foamy. Shake off the extra flour, and fry fish for four minutes total, flipping after 2 minutes. Your sole should be beautifully golden on both sides, and if you stick a fork in the fattest part, should flake slightly.

Remove the sole to your plate. Melt the remaining butter and toast the almonds until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour the extra butter and almonds over the fish. Garnish with the lemon slice.
– Catherine

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Chili fish with tomates

I get the impression many people have forgotten fish itself, with the fish oil craze going on these days.  That’s why I wish we could find a way to industrially synthesize important long-chain fatty acids found in fish so their populations would no longer be as strained, their oils squeezed into small capsules used to improve the cognitive development of young children.  I love the flaky and mild texture of fish – it’s one of my favorite things to eat – but I also know that without a huge change in the way we treat fish, there won’t be much left for our children to enjoy, either in flesh or capsule form.

Now, I find myself sorry for having ranted.  I’m posting a delicious idea for a fish dinner.  Perhaps I should recommend using fish that is certified to be fished sustainably.  I think that would be a good way forward (here’s to hoping that sustainably fished fish is actually sustainable).

This meal is mostly inspired from a chilli fish recipe in Donna Hay’s Instant Cook.  We changed a couple of things around, but by and far, the idea is hers.

Combining the flaky fish with tangy lemon and tomatoes and sweet onions makes a perfect meal


2 Generous portions

1 lb white fish (white fish, sole, tilapia, or cod), fresh or defrosted
1 large onion, cut into rings
1 can of whole tomatoes, or 8 grape tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried chili flakes
Zest of one lemon (washed)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste


Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Once it is hot, add the onions, and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Add chili flakes.

Once onion is cooked, clear a spot for the fish.  Cook fish 5 minutes per side, salting and peppering each side.  Add the tomatoes after each side is cooked, and sprinkle with lemon zest.  Cook just long enough for tomatoes to be hot.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve over rice.  It’s delicious and it’s delightfully fast!


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