This dish has been passed down by part of my family who come from Tartus, Syria. It's a version of the original sayadieh (fish with rice and tahini sauce) however our family prepare it differently and my uncle Mustapha has put a twist on it by adding ginger among other things. There are a handful of people in my life who have a fierce passion and love affair with food. It means the world to them...Mustapha happens to be one of those people. He knows this is one of my favourite dishes and when he prepares it, I recognise it's his way of showing love. It is one of those dishes where I am impelled to hummmmm with pleasure, there is something mystic about the dark rice and uniquely bold walnut sauce that makes it so special. Beware to pass out soon after!
There are 3 elements to this dish which I have categorized below; Walnut Sauce, Rice and Fish
Serves 4 people generously
· 110g walnuts shelled
· 1 bulb of garlic
· 1x 2inch piece of ginger
· 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
· 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
· ½ teaspoon of tumeric
· 3 tbsp. harissa paste (better if its homemade)
· 550ml of water
· bunch fresh coriander chopped
· lemon juice of 1 lemon
· salt and pepper
· olive oil
1. Grind spices together and set aside.
2.Place walnuts in a food processor and blend until broken down. Add the garlic and ginger and blend until it becomes a paste.
3. In a small saucepan, add olive oil and fry the spices and remainder of paste along with 3 tbsp of harissa paste. Add the water and cook on a low heat and allow to simmer for an hour, stirring from time to time to ensure it doesnt stick to the base of the pot.
4. When ready to serve, add the lemon juice and fresh coriander.
· 3 cups of Baldo rice
· 18 brown onions sliced in half centimeter rings
· 1/4 cup vegetable oil for cooking onions
· Water for rice
· Almonds, pine nuts and pistachios (optional) fried/toasted to serve on top of the rice. You can also add cashews for a more opulent dish.
· Salt to season
1. Begin by peeling and slicing the onions, prepare a heavy based pot or large wok and heat ¼ cup of vegetable oil. Fry the onions on medium heat until all the water has been reduced, making sure the onions are not burning. Keep cooking the onions on a lower heat until all the water has evaporated and the onions have turned almost black, we want the slight charred flavour to come through in the dish (but not burnt!). This will take around 2 hours so keep an eye on them!
2. In the meantime, wash the rice until the water runs clear and then soak the rice with salt for minimum of an hour.
3. When the onions have turned into a dark, almost black colour, pour enough water into the pan to cook the rice with and bring to one boil. Drain the liquid, discard the onions and set aside the onion water to cook the rice with.
4. To make the rice, place the drained washed rice into a heavy based pan and fill with the onion water until the water level is half a thumb level above the rice. Place lid and cook on a low heat for 30-40 mins depending on how long the rice takes to cook. The longer the rice has been soaked, the less time it will take.
5. In the meantime, fry or toast the nuts (depending on how health conscious you are) until golden.
6. Serve the rice with the nuts on top.
· 2 medium sized Sea Bass or Grouper, gutted, scaled and cleaned.
· 2 inch stem of ginger
· spring onions
· Fresh dill or another fresh herb of your choice
· Peel of 1lemon
1. Preheat the oven at 180ºC
2. Place the fish in a deep oven pan and place the herbs, lemon, ginger and spring onions in the cavity.
3. Cover the fish with foil and allow a small hole for the steam to escape.
4. Cook in the oven for around 30-40mins until a knife inserted in the meat comes out easily and clean.
Serve the fish, rice and sauce in separate dishes – Sahtein!