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Chreime − North African Hot Fish Stew

Chreime made from grouper, amberjack or some other fine fish is featured at Rosh Hashanah and Passover dinners in the households of North African Jews (from Morocco, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia), but the sauce is so delicious and dominant that inexpensive fish may be used. Indeed, everyday versions of chreime prepared with cheaper kinds of fish can be found in market eateries and workers kitchens, and of course at home. Bear in mind that the fish should be juicy when ready, so the cooking time must be adapted to the type of fish: the leaner the fish, the shorter the cooking cycle.
The dominant spices in chreime are paprika, cayenne pepper and garlic, but the secret ingredient that never fails to give the sauce the touch of authenticity is ground caraway. Dont omit it!

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) fish with white, firm flesh (grouper, greater amberjack, sea bass, grey mullet or even carp), cut through the bone into thick slices (steaks
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon (or less) cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  1. Heat the oil in a large  wide saucepan, add the garlic and spices and fry over high heat while stirring until the oil becomes aromatic. Add the tomato paste and stir until the paste blends with the oil. Add one cup of water and cook covered for 5 minutes.
  2. Carefully add the fish steaks to the sauce, bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat. If the sauce does not completely cover the fish steaks, turn them once halfway through the cooking.
  3. Cook for 10 minutes or until the fish is done but still firm and juicy. Serve with couscous or steamed rice and a lot of soft white bread for mopping up the sauce.

More from the North African kitchen: Spicy Morrocan-style Fish (Dag Hareef)


photo: Eilon Paz (from "the Book of New israeli Food")



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