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Senegalese Fish with Rice:
Ceebu Jen

What's The Big Idea?

Ceebu Jen is viewed by many as Senegal's national dish. There are as many different ways of cooking it as there are ingredients, and probably even more variations of the spelling! While Ceebu Jen is the most normal way (deriving for the Wolof words for rice - ceeb - and fish - jen), I have seen it spelled "ceep bu jen" "ceebujenn", "ceebu jën", and "cep bu jën". It has also been "translated" into a French approximation of the pronounciation as "thieboudienne", "thiep bu dinenne", "tiéboudienne", or "thiebou dienne"! Take your pick!

Whatever the spelling, it is an "all in one" dish of rice, vegetables and fish. Traditionally the rice would be spread over a large platter in the middle of the table, with the fish and vegetbales piled on top. Guests would then simply help themselves using their fingers (no forks, spoons or individual plates). If you prefer, of course, you can serve with knives and forks in a more "western style", by arranging the rice on your guests' individual plates and then serving the fish and vegetables on top. It is also quite common to serve wedges of lime and spoonfulls of chilli sauce around the edge of the platter or individual plates, for your guests to use if they wish to supplement the flavour of the dish.

The ingredients can be varied immensely too, especially the choice of vegetables. Carrots, potatoes, cabbage and aubergine (eggplant) are common choices, but sweet potato, okra, pumpkin, butternut squash or courgettes (zucchini) can all be used as substitutes. For the fish, you can either use small whole fish which have been gutted, or fillets (into which you will need to cut "pouches" or holes to put the stuffing mixture in). Many people recommend trout or salmon, but the choice of the main fish is up to you. If you can additionally obtain a small piece of dried, smoked fish from an African market, that will add enormously to the flavour.

Shopping List

Here's the list of what you need:

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt
  • ½-1 teaspoon crushed dried red chillies, depending on your taste
  • 4 small whole fish (gutted) or 4 large fish fillets
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Small piece of dried, smoked fish if available
  • 2 chicken or fish stock cubes, or ideally to be authentic Maggi Stock Cubes
  • ½ cabbage, very roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 small aubergines (eggplants), or 3 courgettes (zucchini), roughly chopped
  • 8oz short grain rice
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges, and hot chilli sauce, to serve

What To Do

  • With a mortar and pestle, grind together the garlic, parsley, a pinch of salt, and the dried chillies
  • Rinse the fish. If using fillets make 3-4 holes in the fish. If using whole fish rinse out the cavity well. Stuff the fish with the parsley mixture
  • Heat the oil in large flame-proof casserole or wok. Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes
  • Mix the tomato purée with 4fl oz warm water and add to the pan, along with the bay leaves, smoked, dried fish (if using) and stock cubes
  • Now add the fish and 8fl oz warm water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the fish is cooked - timing will depend on the fish
  • Remove the fish with a slotted spoon. Keep warm. Now add a further 8fl oz warm water to the pan, along with the chopped vegetables
  • Simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked, adding more water if necessary
  • Once the vegetables are cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon and keep warm
  • Add the rice to the broth, and simmer until cooked, only adding water if necessary. When cooked, drain any excess liquid from the rice
  • To serve, arrange the rice on large platter in a 1-2 inch flat layer. Arrange the vegetables in the middle, and the fish on top
  • Place lime wedges and spoonfulls of chilli sauce around the edge of the platter

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