Spring is almost here ! Today I decided to share this simple recipe that I used to have when I was growing up. The recipe comes from one of my mom’s best friends. They both met during their time in France when they were students and remained friends even after returning home to their respective countries.
She was from Central African Republic and everytime she came to Brazzaville and pay us a visit, she would always cook some delucious dishes. And one of those dishes was this Fish stew with red palm oil. Mostly unknown in the West, red palm oil is a stapple in the Congolese cuisine.
For unfair reasons, red palm oil is commonly perceived as bad, in Western countries, mainly because most people tend to confuse palm oil with hydrogenated palm kernel oil. On one hand, Red palm oil comes the red fleshy fruits of the palm tree and contains high levels of Vitamins and healthy nutrients. On the other hand, hydrogenated palm oil comes from the process of bonding a hydrogen atom to double bonds of fatty acid chains leading to the creation of trans fats, which can have negative effects on cholesterol levels
According to many researchs, Red palm oil has revealed itself as an healthy fat with many benefits. In fact, studies have shown that red palm oil is full of nutrients and antioxidants. And many of its components are labelled as anti-cancer agents.
In order to not have the fish crumble while cooking, make sure to pick a fish with firm flesh. My mom’s friend used to make this recipe with Nile perch, a widespread freshwater fish throughout of the Congo river. The Nile perch is similar to the Australian barramundi. But since it’s not an easy task to find Nile perch in Canada, I decided to go with blue marlin fish. However, learning from past experiences, whenever I’m not sure about the type of fish to use for a specific recipe I always ask my fishmonger for advice and I’m never disappointed. So, don’t hesitate to do the same.
4 steaks of Marlin fish
1 cup of Fish fumet
4 tablespoons of red Palm oil
¼ cup of Onion purée
2 tablespoons of Garlic purée
1 Scotch bonnet (hot pepper)
2 Bay leaves
In a large saucepan, heat the red palm oil over medium-heat for 1-2 minutes. When the oil becomes hot and starts to smoke (a caracteristic of the red palm oil, it smokes when hot), remove the saucepan from the heat and add onion and garlic. Stir and put the saucepan back on the stove over low heat.
Add the fish steaks by making sure to color each side with palm oil. Add bay leaves and whole scottish pepper. Pour in the fumet. Season to your liking with salt and pepper. Let it simmer, half covered with the lid, for 10-15 minutes over medium heat or until the fish steaks look cooked.
Remove the fish from the saucepan and let the sauce reduce for 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat and it’s time to serve.
This stew is best served when accompanied with steamed plantains.
If you don’t have fish fumet, the trick is to either use vegetable broth or dilute one cube of shrimp bouillon in warm water.
If you are lucky enough to find Nile perch or barramundi where you live, use it for this recipe.