from: Western Africa | cooking method: boiling-simmering
Ceebu Jën (Rice and Fish)
Ceebu Jën is one of Senegal's classic dishes. There are dozens of possible variations; use this recipe as a starting point and put in whatever you like or leave out what you don't.
There are three steps to making Ceebu Jën:
- frying onion and fish that has been stuffed with roof (or roff), a flavoring mixture
- cooking tomatoes and other vegetables in the oil that was used to fry the fish
- cooking the rice in broth from the vegetables.
The fish, vegetables, rice (including the scrapings from the bottom of the pot, called xooñ), and cooking liquid are combined for a grand presentation.
What you need
- stuffing mixture (roof or roff):
- one or two sweet peppers (or bell peppers) (green, yellow, or red); chopped
- one onion or two leeks or several scallions, chopped
- garlic, minced (optional)
- a small bunch of parsley or a bay leaf (or some similar fresh herb)
- hot chile pepper, cleaned and chopped (optional)
- one cup peanut oil, or for an authentic red color: red palm oil
- two onions, chopped
- a piece of dried, salted, or smoked fish, such as cod or herring, (stockfish is often used); the piece should be about half the size of your hand
- two to three pounds of fish: whole, filets, or steaks; cleaned (sea bass, hake, haddock, sea bream, halibut, or any similar firm-fleshed fish)
- tomato paste
- three or four tomatoes (peeled if desired), whole
- one or more of the following root vegetables and tubers:
- carrots, chopped
- sweet cassava (also called manioc, yuca, or yucca) tuber; or potatoes, chopped
- yams (sweet potatoes are not the same, but may be substituted), chopped
- hot chile pepper, such as habanero or serrano chile, whole, but pricked with a fork
- one or more of the following leaf and fruit vegetables:
- cabbage, chopped
- one or two sweet peppers (or bell peppers) (green, yellow, or red); left whole
- one squash (any kind will do) or zucchini, cleaned and chopped
- eggplant (aubergine, or guinea squash), peeled and chopped
- okra, whole, but with ends removed
- several cups of rice (In Senegal, this dish is often made with broken rice. Short-grained rice can be used, and it can be broken by soaking it in water, draining it, then mashing it with your hands or a blunt object like the end of a bottle.)
What you do
- Prepare the roof (or roff) by combining the stuffing mixture ingredients and grinding them into a paste, adding a little oil or water if needed. Many cooks include what seems to be an essential in Africa: a Maggi cube. Cut deep slits into the fish (but not all the way through) and stuff them with the roof mixture.
- Heat the oil in a large pot. Fry the onions and dried/salted/smoked fish for a few minutes. Then fry the fresh fish for a few minutes on each side. Remove the fish and set aside.
- Stir the tomato paste and a cup of water into the oil in the pot. Add the root vegetables and tubers and the hot chile pepper. Add water to partially cover them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or more.
- Add the leaf and fruit vegetables, place the fried fish on top of them, and continue to simmer for an additional twenty minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- The fish and all the vegetables and set them aside, keeping them warm. Remove a cup or two of the vegetable broth and set it aside. Add the rice to the vegetable broth. Add water or remove liquid as necessary to obtain two parts liquid to one part rice. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on very low heat until the rice is cooked--about twenty minutes. It should stick a little to the bottom of the pot.
- Find the hot chile among the vegetables. Combine it to the reserved vegetable broth in a small saucepan and bring to a slow boil. Remove and discard the pepper and put the sauce into a dish or gravy boat.
- When the rice is done turn the pot over onto a large serving platter. Scrape the crust (the xooñ) from the bottom of the pot over the rice. Arrange the fish and vegetables over and around the rice. Garnish with parsley and sliced limes (to squeeze over fish) as desired.
- Serve Jus de Bissap with your meal, and Green Tea with Mint afterwards.
Fish -- stuffed with onions or peppers, and fried -- is common in many African countries along the Atlantic coast; see: Fish & Onions in Tomato Sauce and Mulet Farci à la Saint-Louisienne.
How's that spelled?
Ceebu Jën (from the Wolof ceeb, rice; and jën, fish; pronounced cheb-o-djin) is also spelled Ceebu Jen, Ceeb bu jen, Ceeb u jen, Thebouidienne, Thieboudienne, Theibou Dienn, Thiebou Dienn, Thiebou Dienne, Thiebou Dienne, Thiébou dieune, Tié bou dienne, Thieb-ou-Djien, Thiebu Djen and sometimes just called Thieb or in French, Riz au Poisson; all are names for the same dish.
As the Ceebu Jën recipe spread beyond the borders of the Wolof empire (in today's Senegal) and was adapted to use meat instead of fish, it became Western Africa's "Wolof Rice" or Jollof Rice.
Another classic Senegalese dish is Poulet Yassa.
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