Senegalise Proverb: Sahha kënz lhayaat – Health is the treasure of life
Senegal has a population of approximately 13.7 million. 47.6% of Senegalese people are failing to meet their basic food needs as a result of devastating natural disasters; including flooding and drought exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Because of this over half of the produce consumed in Senegal is imported which means that prices for basic provisions are severely inflated. In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 18,443 people in Senegal by providing nutritional support to vulnerable families.
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Ceebu Jen (rice and fish in the Wolof language) is the national dish of Senegal. Ceebu Jen is also known by it’s French transcription Thieboudienne. It’s widely acknowledged that this dish, and it’s Wolof roots, is the inspiration for the ubiquitous West African dish Jollof rice. Ceebu Jen is a festive, sharing dish centred around a large platter of tomatoey rice topped with fresh fish and vegetables – enjoy with a glass of hibiscus ice tea!
For this recipe I had all the ingredients I needed to create an adaptation of the dish therefore I have donated £5 – 100% of the estimated cost of the ingredients for the Senegalese national dish Ceebu Jen.
Fish Marinade (or stuffing if using a whole fish):
- Fresh Parsley
- Lemon or Lime Juice
- Red Chilli Flakes
- Minced Garlic
- Spring Onion
- Salt and Pepper
- White Fish
- Fresh or Tinned Tomatoes
- Tomato Puree
- Harissa (cheat addition)
- Scotch Bonnets
- Fish or Vegetable Stock
- Pretty much any vegetable you have lying around (especially Cassava)
- Tamarind Paste or Hibiscus Flowers (optional)
- Fish Sauce
- Salt and Pepper
- Lemon Wedges
- Make a marinade for the fish – in a pestle and mortar make a paste of garlic, fresh parsley, chilli flakes, lemon juice and salt. Rub into fish and put in fridge to infuse.
- In a mini food processor (if you don’t have one just chop finely) blitz up onion, red pepper (keep two bits aside), half the parsley and all the parsley stalks. Heat some oil in a large saucepan and add – keep it low and let it ‘sweat’ so the mixture release liquid but doesn’t colour.
- In a little bowl with hot water mix two teaspoons of tomato paste and one teaspoon of harissa *I added for additional flavour – not strictly traditional*. Stir till diluted and add to the pan.
- I added 3 scotch bonnet chillis, you choose how hot you like it!
- In the same bowl with more hot water add fish or veg stock – two cubes, pots whatever you’re using – then add to the pan. The saucepan should be just over a quarter full of liquid.
- Some recipes call for tamarind paste, I didn’t have any so I soaked some hibiscus flowers in water and added to the pan. Hibiscus has a slightly bitter, lemony taste like tamarind and is actually native to Senegal where (like in Egypt) it’s drunk as a soft drink both hot and cold.
- Let it cook for a little bit while you shop up your vegetables. I only had courgettes so I only put courgettes. If you have carrots, turnips, butternut squash whatever put it in!
- Add rice to the liquid in the pan. I used Spanish which is more robust than Basmati and is less likely to go soggy. Turn down as low as possible and put a lid on. Set aside for about ten minutes.
- In the mean time I make ‘garnish’. That’s; chopped fresh parsley, small cubes of red pepper, small cubes of tomato or half cherry plum tomatoes and this time because I had courgette – ‘courgette ribbons’. I do this by turning a cheese grater flat on it’s side and using the wide section as though it was a mandolin!
- By now the rice should have soaked up most of the water in the pan. Give it a good mix then add the courgettes (and/or whatever veg you have) to the pan and put the lid on. The steam will cook the rest through.
- For the fish it’s traditional to steam the fish with the rice – I like different textures so I cooked mine on a griddle pan. Add oil to your marinated fish and get your pan really hot, you don’t need oil in the pan at all. Cook fish for approximately 3 minutes on each side or until you get a nice colour. It’s good to be a bit translucent inside as it will keep cooking when taken off the heat.
- Stir most of the parsley into the rice then spoon rice big serving dish – add fish – add garnish. Finish with the last of the chopped parsley and a couple of wedges of lemon.
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