Sometimes love is not always, albeit great, chocolates, sweets and wine. Sometimes love is a warm bowl of your favorite soup, a plate of your favorite snack or the wafting aroma of the all too familiar foods you have come to develop an affection for.
Sometimes love is not a pristine bed of white sheets with crimson rose petals. Sometimes love is hurdling together in the familiar but worn couch that has seen your growth over the years and watching that film a millionth time.
Sometimes love is not eating out at that penthouse restaurant with its tres chic ambiance and view of the skyline. Sometimes love is seating on your balcony and having that warm bowl of your favorite soup, a plate of your favorite snack or the wafting aroma of the all too familiar foods you have come to develop an affection for.
Sometimes love is letting go of all socially imposed etiquette of how certain food should and shouldn’t be eaten and diving, hands bare into the most satisfying bowl of stewed fish with obundu/ akaalo/ posho [insert your favorite staple carbohydrates]
The poem above is an attempt at depicting what I felt while going through the motions of making and eventually devouring this fish stew because it hit all the right spots and brought about childhood nostalgia. Isn’t it amazing that food has the power to humble us, make us see the world differently and evoke certain emotions?! I find it intriguing. And so in this season of expressing our love to both ourselves and the people who mater to us, here is a stew that I trust will help in achieving that because it has home, comfort and warmth written all over it. Here is the process: First we marinate the fish in curry powder, black pepper, salt and some lemon juice then proceed to fry the fish to a golden brown crisp. After that we stew it in perfectly tender tomatoes with a hint of hotness by scotch bonnets (you can use either birds eye chili or akabanga) and served with your ideal mingled meal.
What you will need:
1 Large fish (tilapia, snapper), scaled, cut and thoroughly washed
8 Large tomatoes
1 Large onion, chopped
4 Garlic cloves, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
1 Tsp. Ginger, grated
1 Tbsp. Sugar
1/2 Scotch bonnet
2 Tbsp. Turmeric powder
2 Tbsp. Cumin powder
2 Tsp. Coriander powder
2 Tsp. Ground bay leaves
1/2 Tsp. Ground cloves
1/2 Tsp. Cinnamon
1 Tsp.Ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Oil for frying
1 cup corn flour/maize flour
- Since tomatoes are naturally sour, adding sugar neutralizes the sourness. You may need more than 1 table spoon of sugar to achieve your desired taste.
- Maize flour helps absorb the excess liquid released by the fish as it marinates and keeps the fish from sticking to the pan when frying. If you don’t have maize flour, you can use breadcrumbs instead
- Place the clean pieces of fish in a clean bowl. Add half of the turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, ground bay leaves, ground cloves, cinnamon, ground black pepper, a pinch of salt and juice of 1 lemon into the bowl with the fish.
- Mix well till all the pieces of fish are covered with the pieces. Set aside to marinate for 20 minutes.
- In a separate pan, add enough cooking oil to immerse the fish. Place the pan on high fire and let the oil heat up.
- Place the maize flour on a flat plate and roll each individual piece of fish in it till well coated. Once the oil is hot, gently place the fish pieces into the oil and let them fry till golden brown and crispy.
- While the fish is frying, finely chop half of your tomatoes and set aside. Cut the other half of the tomatoes into chunks and along with the scotch bonnet and place them in a blender. Blend till pureed. If you don’t have a blender, you can make your tomato sauce a head of time using this method
- Once all the fish has been fried, set it a side. Add about a table spoon of oil in a separate pan and place the pan on medium fire.
- Add the garlic, onions, ginger and celery into the oil and let them cook till translucent. Make sure they don’t burn. Next add the finely chopped tomatoes and let them cook till tender.
- Pour your pureed tomatoes in the frying tomatoes and let them cook till they have reduced down to a thick paste and the oil has separated from it.
- Next add the remaining half of your spices (turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, ground bay leaves, ground cloves, cinnamon, ground black pepper and salt) and mix well. Add 2-3 cups of water and sugar and stir the stew well.
- Add the pieces of fried fish to the tomato stew and cover the pan. Let the stew boil for about 15 minutes. Reduce the fire and let the stew simmer till it has reduced, become thick and has oil floating on top.
- Serve hot!
What is love to you?
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