Mooma’s Spicy Fish
Recipe contributed by Gil Hovav. In his memoir, Candies from Heaven, Israeli food writer and personality Gil Hovav offers several family recipes from his childhood in 1960s Jerusalem, one of which is his grandmother’s spicy fish recipe. “There was no Friday night meal without a pot of spicy fish in red sauce, and lots of challah bread to dip in the sauce,” Hovav writes. He adds, “Mooma especially loved this recipe, maybe because my father hated it so much (Jerusalem Yemenites have a hard time with fish).” It is quite delicious and fills the kitchen with that distinct aroma of red peppers and garlic cooked together. Still, keeping with his Jerusalem Yemenite tradition, Hovav himself does not eat fish, but he sees cooking it for his partner and daughter as an act of ultimate love.
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 6–8 fillets tilapia (see notes below)
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 heads of garlic, cloves peeled and halved
- 3 sweet red bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips
- 3 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon chicken or vegetable soup powder (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoons caraway seeds
- Place the onions and fillets in a dish and refrigerate them overnight. The next day, throw away the onions, rinse and dry the fish well.
- Heat the olive oil in a shallow pan, and lightly fry the pieces of fish until golden on both sides. Remove and drain on paper towels.
- Add the garlic and peppers to the oil in the pot and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the fried fish (but not the cilantro and caraway) and cover with about ½ inch of water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, stir in the cilantro and caraway, cover and cook over low heat until the liquid in the pot becomes a thick sauce, about 1½ hours.
- Leah’s Notes
- Since I do not use tilapia, I used about 1¾ pounds of cod, divided into 6 pieces.
- I used 1 teaspoon salt, substituted ground cayenne pepper for the hot paprika and omitted the soup powder.
- My preference is to use high-heat oil for cooking, such as safflower or sunflower oil.
- The peppers release a lot of liquid, but if you find that the sauce hasn’t thickened, let it cook uncovered for another 15 minutes.
- This is also delicious scooped on top of rice or quinoa, and with a vegetable side, it would make a nice meal. I plan on serving it as part of a pareve Shavuot meal.