Sunday, 22 September 2013

Panamanian Fish with Rice & Peas

This, I believe, is a Panamanian recipe of a kind of “escabeche de Pescado” (I’ll get to that) served with Arroz con guandĂș - or rice with (pigeon) peas.

Panamanian cuisine is uniquely and richly mixed - as a land bridge between two continents, there are an unusual variety of ingredients and the cuisine itself reflects its diverse population: African,Spanish, Native American, Asian with foods tending to be less pungently spiced that its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors.

The pigeon pea itself has many names: Gandule bean, Congo pea, gungo pea, gunga pea, and so on. The rice with pigeon peas is obviously very similar to “Rice & Peas” which in the UK tends to be made with kidney beans. A little word of warning regarding the Scotch Bonnet - don’t chop it up whatever you do - you want it to infuse the rice with a warm aroma rather than (blow the back of your head off) spice!

The fish in tomato & pepper sauce reminds me of a fish escabeche - an Afro / Antillean meal apparently brought to Panama during the construction of the Canal. Escabeche refers to a dish of either poached or fried fish marinated in an acidic mixture (usually vinegar) before serving.

I came across the recipe here and I can’t really remember what impelled me to cook it but I am very glad I did - very tasty, very comforting. By the way, I don't usually write cup measures in my recipes as it is a very specific thing; in this case it just seemed easier to do so where I have. If you don't have a culinary cup set (but they are pretty handy), 1 cup is equivalent to about 250ml.

Panamanian Fish with Rice & Pigeon Peas
Serves 2

For the rice
150g long grain rice
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup boiling water
½ tsp caster sugar
150g tinned pigeon peas, drained
small handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 scotch bonnet chilli, left whole

Put the rice in a heavy bottomed saucepan that has a lid and mix in the pigeon peas, sugar, coconut milk and water. Bring to a boil.

Give the rice a good stir, turn down the heat to low, place the chilli on top and then cover the pan with a lid.

Cook for 15 minutes but give it a stir halfway through cooking time.

Once done take off the heat, stir through the coriander and leave to one side, covered until you are ready to serve.

For the fish
2 sea bass filets
1 ½ cups soy sauce
grind of fresh nutmeg
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
plain flour
1 onion finely chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 vegetable stock cube
1 ½ cups water
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp dry Mexican oregano (or normal if that is what you have)
2 big tomatoes finely chopped
½ red pepper finely chopped
½ green pepper finely chopped
2 tbsp of the soy marinade (or to taste), from the fish
2 tbsp olive oil + a little extra

Marinate the fish in the soy sauce, nutmeg and salt and pepper for at least half an hour.

Remove from the marinade, shaking off the excess and dredge the fillets in flour.

Fry in a little olive oil for about 3 minutes per side until golden brown.

Remove the fish from the frying pan and wipe it out with kitchen towel.

Put 2 tbsp of oil in the frying pan over a medium-low heat and add the onion, garlic and crumbled stock cube. Let the onions soften for about 5 minutes.

Add the vinegar, peppers, water, oregano and tomatoes with a couple of tablespoons of the soy marinade from the fish and let the sauce simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes or so.

Lay the fried fish fillets on top of the sauce and gently cook for a further 5 minutes.

Divide the rice between two plates, place the fish on top and spoon over the vegetable sauce.

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