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Passport & Plate - Fish green plantain cazuela

Ecuador | Friday, 14 March 2014 | 5 photos

(Fish green plantain cazuela)

Ingredients (2 portions):

• 2 green plantains
• 200 gr dorada (or hake or with tuna)
• 1 medium red onion, chopped
• 1 medium green pepper, diced
• 1 small tomato, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 50 gr peanuts
• 3 tablespoons achiote (annatto seed) oil
• 1 L fish stock
• 2 tablespoons finely minced cilantro
• 1 teaspoon oregano
• salt, pepper, cumin


1. Heat the achiote oil in a large pan over medium heat and sauté the chopped onion, tomato, green pepper, garlic, oregano (refrito) and seasoning (salt, peper, cumin) until soft and fragrant. Remove from heat and let cook slightly.
2. Peel the plantains, chop them roughly and blend them in a food processor with half of the fish stock. Add the mix to the half of the refrito and mix until well blended and mostly smooth. Add little by little the rest of the stock to keep the whole mix thick but elastic.
3. Blend the peanuts with a little bit of water or half water half milk to make a soft cream. Season it and boil for 5 minutes.
4. Season the fish (salt, pepper, cumin) and sauté it slightly in another pan with the other half of the refrito (2-3 minutes).
5. Preheat the oven (180˚ C).
6. In a clay pot put the plantain mix, then the sautéed fish and cover it with the peanut cream. Bake it for 15-20 minutes or until golden and gratin.
7. Serve warm with lime slices and fresh chopped cilantro (can be eaten with white rice).

Cecilia´s cazuela

It was 1983. It was night. I was traveling with my parents around Manabí, a province of Ecuador well known for its magnificent beaches and its delicious seafood. The car had a malfunction and we got stranded in the middle of the road. The damage was severe and we had nothing to do until the next day. We settled to sleep into the car, and when everyone had already achieved, someone knocked the window next to my father. It was a farmer in his 40s, who had a flashlight in one hand and a machete in the other. He offered to my parents a place to stay at his home and my parents agreed.

The house was about two hundred meters from the road deep into the trees. The man lit the way with the flashlight and with the machete cut branches impeding our way. At the house -a reed walled house of a single space- were Cecilia, Carlos Zambrano´s wife –we soon learned their names-, and their three children: Jonás, Aurelio and Melisa. Cecilia stoked a little fire pit and Carlos showed us where we were going to sleep: a little corner where there was a rush mat and two blankets.

We sat around the fire and Cecilia put in our hands some rough clay smoky pots.

- What is this that smells so good? Asked my mother before giving the first spoonful.
- It´s a cazuela de pescado –said Cecilia-. We did it today for Jonás's birthday.

The cazuela, a dish originally from the countryside in the coast of Ecuador but became urban and popular, my parents had eaten several times before, but swore that Cecilia´s was unique. They immediately knew that it´s taste was due to cooking with firewood and to the fact that the Zambranos had practically all the necessary ingredients in their backyard. My mother asked Cecilia for her recipe.

We slept quite well. The next morning, a mechanic fixed the car and we were able to continue our journey. I was five years old when that happened. I vaguely remember certain scenes, the dancing orange light of the fire, the deformed shadows of the children projected against the reed walls. But my parents remember that night perfectly. They often refer to it as "a moment of infinite generosity," and since then, they adopted Cecilia´s cazuela de pescado as the dish of the great welcome moments. Every time I return to Quito, or whenever I'm passing by, my parents receive me with a plato de cazuela.

I learned to make it when I was 18.

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