A taste of Zanzibar (chakula kizuri), 96pp.
by Zarina Jafferji
The Gallery Publications, Zanzibar, 2002
Cooking on page 32–33
A few years back Poor John and I had several magical days in Zanzibar.
Even though we stayed in a rather basic hostel, Zanzibar was a perfect R&R stop after many months of travelling through Africa on the back of an overland truck.
We had some fantastic meals and plenty of time to explore Stone Town’s seemingly endless maze of narrow streets and alleys, lined with houses, shops, bazaars and mosques. We also enjoyed a day-long spice tour, learning how these ‘nuggets of flavour’ are grown, harvested and processed in a place that is also known as the Spice Island.
Zanzibar is a historic trade crossroads so, not surprisingly, its cuisine has been influenced by African, Indian and Arabian flavours. I hoped to buy a cookbook while I was there, but no luck. So was pleased to find that Pareen, a friend who grew up in Uganda, was happy to share this collection of Swahili recipes.
Today I’m cooking fish cakes on page 32.
Fish cakes (cutlesi ya samaki)
1 1/2 lbs fish
3 medium onions, finely chopped
3 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed OR
3 slices soaked bread (squeeze out the water)
fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tsp garam masala
pinch of ground turmeric
lemon juice to taste
salt and pepper to taste
3 eggs, beaten
oil for frying
Boil the fish with a little salt. Debone the fish and put to one side. Put the next 11 ingredients in a food processor, including the bread or potatoes, and blend together.
Lastly add the fish and blend for a second. Roll each spoonful into a ball and then flatten into fish cake size, coating well with breadcrumbs. Dip the fish cakes into the well beaten eggs and shallow fry over a medium heat, turning once or twice until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve on a bed of salad.
How it played out
Four of us were going to enjoy these, so I made two-thirds of a batch. I worked with boneless fillets of snapper that I had thawed overnight, a third of a bunch of coriander (cilantro) and lime juice rather than lemon.
The patties were easy to bring together and held their shape. I liked the fact the fish wasn’t to be buzzed for too long, so that some chunks remained in the mixture.
My breadcrumbs were quite coarse so I needed all three eggs for dipping the cakes before frying. Oh, I shallow fried the patties in peanut oil, and served them with tangy coriander and yoghurt sauces.
The coriander sauce was buzzed up in the food processor. I used a bunch of fresh coriander, 1/2 a jalapeño (mostly deseeded), 1/4 teaspoon salt, 3–4 tablespoons vinegar and 3 tablespoons yoghurt.
I stirred the yoghurt sauce together in a bowl. It had 1/2 cup of yoghurt, 1 teaspoon lime juice, 1 clove of crushed garlic, a little salt and 2 teaspoons of water (just to give a good consistency).
Delicious fish cakes that were really enhanced by the coriander and yoghurt sauces. Next time I’ll be tempted to add a couple of finely chopped green chillies, but otherwise no need to change a thing.
Two-thirds of a batch made 8 cakes about 3 inches (7.5 centimetres) in diameter.
P.S. If you have a chance, please stop by my travel blog.