Friday, March 14, 2008

Smoked Fish with Vegetables, Matapha and Gari

The food from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique has some similarities. The use of peanuts. Coconuts. Dried and smoked fish. Leaves from cassava and other plants as a primary ingredient. Combine all these ingredients with some onions, chillies, palm oil, and garlic and you have a fusion of Mozambican Matapha and Congolese Pondu. Served with some pap, rice or gari and you have a delicious and filling dish. We prefer to add another dish, like smoked chicken with peanut sauce (DRC), or (very) spicy fried okra with prawns (Mozambique). Since I’ve made these dishes many times before, I opted for a new addition: fried smoked fish with vegetables.
So here they are.

Smoked Fish with Vegetables

Found in Dorinda Hafner's A Taste of Africa, purchased at Borders for $10!

500g smoked herring or mackerel
3 tbs peeled and finely grated ginger
½ cup vegetable or peanut oil
2 onions, minced
4 tomatoes, blanched, peeled and puréed
1 tbs tomato paste blended with ¼ cup water
2 red chillies, minced
250g green beans
½ teaspoon garlic salt (or salt and garlic)

Season the fish with salt and ginger. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan, and sauté the fish (I used mackerel) until crisp and brown. Remove from the oil, drain, and set aside. In the remaining oil, add the onions and sauté until they are almost brown. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chillies, green beans, and garlic salt. Return the fish to the pan, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

Matapha / Pondu

is an amalgamation of many internet recipes that I no longer have because I wrote them in Rakas departing present, the cook's companion recipe journal.

6 handfuls Cassava (or Matapha) leaves
3 tbs palm oil
2 onions
8 cloves garlic
one piece of dried, salted or smoked fish, broken up
3 chillies (or more if they’re not very hot)
salt to taste

For Matapha add:
1 can coconut cream
1 cup roasted peanuts

NB: I’ve guessed the quantities as I normally make it by taste, so you may need to adjust.

Equivalent ingredients
Cassava or Matapha leaves have a distinct chlorophyll fragrance and taste, which is difficult to replace. If you can’t find them in Footscray or some other suburb of Melbourne which I don’t know about which has African grocers (sorry Melly, but I have no idea if you’ll have an option at all here), use 8 handfuls of spinach.

Palm oil is thick, red and sticky. Again, if you can’t find an equivalent, use peanut or ground nut oil.

For the smoked fish I tend to use half a small smoked fish (see picture), but you can also use a bunch of those tiny dried fish you get at Asian grocers (although not as fragrant).

If using fresh leaves, grind leaves in mortar and pestle with the garlic and chillies. Otherwise grind garlic and chillies then add frozen leaves. Place in a saucepan, cover with water and cook until almost dry (approximately ½ hour). Add all remaining ingredients and cook for one hour, adding water if necessary. For Matapha, once cooked, blend until almost smooth (it should be the consistency of a pumpkin soup). The dish should be nutty and smoky, but not spicy despite the inclusion of chillies.


Again, taken from Dorinda's cookbook

Gari is a new addition to my African recipes, and is delicious. It is actually a Portuguese and/or French dish which has been adopted by the Ivory Coast (I think it might be a Portuguese dish adopted by French colonies). It is almost like a cross between polenta and bread, and is very simple to make. If you can’t find it in African or Portuguese / Spanish grocers, use polenta, rice or mashed potato instead (I’ll explain pap another day).

Farine de Manioca (in French, or Farinhe de Mandioca in Brazil, or Farinha de Mandioca in Portugal, or dried ground cassava)

Put 2 cups gari in a bowl and add enough lightly salted water to cover it completely (I also give it a little stir). Let is stand for 10 minutes, or until the gari absorbes the liquid and swells (it will swell to about twice its original size). Fluff the gari with a fork and serve with the fish and the Matapha poured over it.

Serves 4


Us said...

Oij oij oij, this looks mycket bra. I am sure we could try this over here, lots of smoked fish to be found and love the idea of all those super strong flavours. Mmmmm our local fresh produce man has just reopened after the winter too so should be able to get stuff. Yummo tack!

Mel in Lao said...

Yum! I looked it up on Wikepedia and found a pic

And....It is all over the markets here..both leaves and root. Yay!