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Passport & Plate - Twice Cooked Kuwaiti Zubaidi

Australia | Monday, 3 March 2014 | 5 photos

1 zubaidi (Kuwait's national fish. An alternative is something like silver pomfret, plaice or similar - we used snapper)
300g basmati rice
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamon pods
2 cloves
Freshly ground salt and pepper

For the 'hashou' filling
3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil
2 onions finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh coriander roughly chopped
Juide of half a lime plus zest, juice of half a lemon
Freshly ground salt and pepper

For the topping
1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil
1 onion finely copped
1 teaspoon of turmeric
Zest of lime
Freshly ground salt and pepper

Kuwaiti tomato sauce
4 tomatoes
2 freshly crushed garlic cloves
A dash of cayenne pepper
Freshly ground salt and pepper


How to prepare this recipe
Clean the fish and wash your rice.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil then put in the fish and the spices and cook for a couple of minutes until the flesh begins to turn white.
Remove the fish and set aside, reserving the cooking water to cook the rice. The flavours will combine to create a creamy, flavorsome rice and add continuity to the dish!

To make the hashou heat the oil and saute the onion the until golden. And add coriander, lime zest and seasoning, then carefully pack the stuffing into the fish's cavity.

Place the fish under a grill or in an oven. A woodfired oven is ideal - in Kuwait they send their fish to the baker's after the morning bake to take on a slight woody flavour.

Cook the rice in the reserved cooking water until soft and fluffy.

Gently fry the topping ingredients. When the is rice cooked lay the fish on top and the hashou over the fish.

Prick the tomatoes all over and cover for a few minutes with boiled water. Pour away the water and peel the tomatoes. Roughly chop them, then put them and the rest of the sauce ingredients into a small pan. Bring to the boil and then gently simmer for a good 20 to 30 minutes. Add as much cayenne as wished - Kuwaitis love this and add it to most meals!

Serve with plenty of lemon, yogurt and a glass of cold white wine of your choice (thoroughly un-Arabic, but essential!)


The story behind this recipe
The rice whorled like the henna on Sameera’s cracked, brown hands before disappearing behind a cloud of starch.
She smiled a wide, gap-toothed smile, “yes, habibi,” she cooed. “We have many monkeys back home in India.”
I wanted one I told her, when she came back to our little house in Kuwait with its courtyard that shaded us from the desert heat, I wanted her to bring back a monkey for me.
She smiled widely again, and the sunlight twinkled in her eyes like the white crests on the Persian Gulf.
Thinking back it’s what I remember most – the deep azure blues of the sea and the strange creatures that came from it, mostly in the dhows that would head out before the sun rose and come back with fish like zubaidi.
“I promise, habibi,” Sameera said, massaging the rice in practiced movements, instinctively plucking out the black grains.
From across the sea a breeze would come that shook the date palms, lifting the heavy scents of the Middle East and breathing life into them from the kitchens; woody cinnamon, zesty sumac, delicate dried rose, heady lavender and sweet pomegranate.
They’re the flavours of the Middle East, the aromas of memories and the taste of another place and time that are stirred even now.
And a family favourite that made its way from Bahrain (so the story goes) to my mother in Kuwait, is Twice Cooked Zubaidi, a flaky white fish found in the Gulf, boiled then fried or oven cooked and served on a bed of rice.
In Kuwait they would send the fish to the bakers who would place it in the bread ovens after their morning baking, and it would come out with a faintly smoky aroma.
For this reason we’ve always loved food – each place has its own flavours
Our family story is complex, from the UK to Kuwait to Australia, and Mum’s cooking not only reminds us of our personal history but binds us together in the present even though we’re now continents apart.
I never did get my monkey.
But if nothing else, thank you World Nomads for a wonderful trip back down memory lane!

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