My recipe from Cuba: Fish in coconut saffron sauce

Hmm … Doesn’t Cuban cuisine sound like a mix of African, Creole and Spanish influences to you? Purely exotic? That is how I would describe the recipe from José. However, if you think there is plenty of this type of cuisine outside of Havana, then you are really wrong. It was not easy to find something typically Cuban that is so delicious that I want to cook it at all. But then José and his fish in coconut saffron sauce came along and I knew that I have to write that down for you. You can find the recipe below!

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Unlike other times, I’m not visiting Jose at his home. We are in the kitchen of Elvira.

As usual in Cuba, the good soul rents out a few rooms of her home to guests. In Cuba this is called ‘Casa particulares’. And José, a trained chef, prepares the most delicious dishes for her guests. Of course, this is only his second job. As often in Cuba, he happens to have another job. He is a full time laboratory technician in the hospital. But his passion is cooking.

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Here we go. The open-air kitchen of Elvira overlooking the streets of Baracoa is just perfect for cooking together.

Since José was 9 years old, he has been cooking for himself and his four years younger sister. Later when his mother became ill at a very young age, he decided to get totally into cooking. He knows a lot of recipes from his grandmother.

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The recipe which he cooks for us today, is a typical dish here in Baracoa. The city in eastern Cuba, is now known for its cuisine.

That hasn’t always been like that. Only after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 90s, the typical kitchen of Baracoa experienced a revolution, José tells me. Viva la revolución! Suddenly all imported products of the communist Amigos fell away. Within two years, the average Cuban has lost about one third of his body weight. José, as well as all Cubans were forced to reflect back to the kitchen of their grandmothers and use local ingredients once again.

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So, enough with the talking! Let’s get started!

Ingredients (for 2 people)

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  • 200 g of fish
  • 200 ml coconut milk or better: Coconut Cream
  • Half a tsp of saffron
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a small green bell pepper or a quarter of a normal one
  • salt
  • black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 1 tsp soup spice or better fish soup spice
  • 1/2 bunch coriander
  • Oil (sunflower or rapeseed oil)
  • 100 g rice

Preparation:

The sauce

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José Cuts all the ingredients (coriander, onion, garlic and green peppers) in millimeter small cubes.

He says, if he had a blender, he would use it instead of cutting everything. However those things are still hard to come by in Cuba.

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Heat the coconut milk over a low flame.

Add the ingredients in the following order: chilly, soup spice, 1 tsp pepper, 1 pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp saffron, 1 pinch of garlic (the rest is for the fish). In between you have to stir it occasionally. Add the coriander in the end.

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Now let it simmer over low flame.
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It already tastes very good. Yummy!

The rice

Wash the rice and cook it with 1:1 (water:Rice), 2 teaspoons of salt and 2 teaspoons of oil.

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When the rice is ready, stir it and let it soak for another 3 minutes.

The fish

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The thawed (or fresh) fish is seasoned only with salt and pepper on each side.

The pan for the fish should be very hot before adding about 3 tsps of oil.

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Fry the fish from both sides and add the remaining chopped ingredients. You can cover it and let it on a low flame for a few minutes.
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So, now a little bit of garnishing and off we go!

I must say it tastes fantastic! May be due to my weakness for coconut or simply because of the delicious preparation of José!

Buen provecho (Enjoy your meal) and muchisimas gracias to José and Elvira.

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Thanks also to Mo, my egyptian travel companion, who helped me this time with the pictures … and also enjoyed eating.

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1 thought on “My recipe from Cuba: Fish in coconut saffron sauce

  1. Awesome!! looks fantastic. IWILL COOk this at home and makea couple of mojitos to go with it!

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