Sayadieh is the classic fish and rice dish of the Lebanese. It's named after the fisherman's catch and made with a rich fish stock, topped with golden onions.
Subtly spiced and light at the same time, this fish dish can be made with any white fish such as sea bass, sea bream or even cod.
The traditional method of making this dish involves a fish stock from scratch which puts most people off.
You can buy fish stock but it won't have the same intensity of flavour and it also means you can't control the salt level.
I've used three sea-bass here, and as it is a messy dish to make you might as well make a big batch in one go.
I also got two extra sea-bass fillets to place on top of the final dish, as it looks inviting.
These days you can buy readily made fish spices, but i've also included them in the recipe in case you don't have them at hand.
You can tell if the fish is fresh by looking for bright eyes without any redness. Be nice to your fishmonger and they might even get you a fresh catch from the stockroom.
Once you coat thee fish in the flour spice mixture, you can either deep fry them or pan fry them till crispy.
Flake the fish and use the heads, skin and bones to make a rich fish stock which is then cooked with the rice.
Finally, re-add the fish to the rice and steam them together until the rice is cooked. Garnish with toasted nuts and caramelised onions.
If feeding to small children, take extra care with small bones that might find their way into the rice.
I brown lots of onions and use some as a garnish, and the rest goes into the stock to give it that dark colour.
I've used basmati rice which doesn't tend to become stodgy. Always pre-soak the rice when you are not cooking it separately.
When you flake the fish, try to keep some big chunks as they look nice on top of the rice and you don't want it to become like fishcakes.
When you add the rice to the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer on low. Try and taste the simmering water to see the seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Sayadieh goes well with tahini sauce or a tomato and onion salad.
The rice dish will store in the fridge for up to three days. To reheat, add a splash of boiling water and cook on low heat for about ten minutes.
You can freeze the cooked final dish for around three months. Simply defrost then add to a pan with a little boiling water and cook through well.
You will need a wide non stick pan to fry the fish and onions.
A medium to large pot that will hold 5 cups of water to make the stock.
A deep casserole dish to cook the rice in (if the original pan you fried the fish in is not big enough to hold 3 cups of cooked rice).
Finally, you will need a fine sieve to pass through the stock
Sayadieh (Fish and rice)
Subtly spiced fish rice cooked in a rich fish stock, topped with onions and toasted nuts.
- 3 whole white fish sea-bass or sea-bream
- 2 large fish fillets with skin on
- 3 onions cut into ribbons
- 3 cups basmati rice
- ½ cup mild olive oil
- ½ cup plain all purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon fish spices x 2
- ¼ teaspoon cumin x 2
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper x 2
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric x 2
- ¼ teaspoon paprika x 2
- ¼ teaspoon 7 spice x 2
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
For the stock
- 5 cardamom pods
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- boiling water 4.5 cups
For the garnish
- 1 cup mixed nuts cashews, pine nuts, flaked almonds
Wash the fish and descale with the back of a sharp knife
In a wide non stick pan, brown the onions in the mild olive oil until golden. Set aside
In a bowl, soak the rice by covering with water and set aside
To prepare the fish
In a tray, mix together the flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon each of the following: fish spices, cumin, black pepper, turmeric, paprika, 7 spice and ground coriander
Coat the fish in the flour spice mixture, adding some more oil if you need to, and fry in the pan you browned the onions in until crispy. Remove the fish and set aside
When the fish has slightly cooled, remove the flesh trying to keep good sized chunks intact. Keep the fish flakes to one side and add the skin, bones and fish-head to a pot
To make the stock
Add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and bay leaves to the fish bones, with half of the caramelised onions and add around 4.5 cups of boiling
Then add another teaspoon of salt and another ¼ teaspoon each of the following: fish spices, cumin, black pepper, turmeric, paprika and 7 spice
Bring the stock to the boil then simmer on low heat for around 45 minutes. Then pass the stock through a fine sieve
To make the rice
Drain the rice and add to a deep casserole dish (use the pan you fried the fish in if it is big enough). Drizzle on some mild olive oil and sauté for a few minutes and add the stock to cover
Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a low simmer, add the fish on top (except the two large fillets) and cover with a lid
Taste the simmering water and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Cook for around 20 minutes until the rice is done
As the rice is cooking, lightly toast the nuts in a non stick pan or in the oven until golden, careful not to burn them
Serve the rice on a large platter, add the fish on top including the large fillets, and garnish with the remaining onions and toasted nuts.
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