During our first excursion of the summer, we enjoyed a wonderful seaside meal that included siyyadieh, a delicious Levantine fish dish (actually, two friends ordered it and I stole a few bites from their plate). Its secret (besides the freshest fish available, of course) is that its rice is cooked in the broth used to cook the fish – a similar approach to the one Moroccans take when they steam their couscous with the same sauce used to cook the vegetables, meat, and sauce that will be served with it.
Some weeks later, Kate tried it out for a dinner party and it was a resounding success. On a whim we served it with chermoula, a traditional Moroccan fish dressing on the side (which you can make from my recipe, here) – and it turned out to be a good thing, since our Lebanese dinner guest confessed to us that he (and he wasn’t alone) never much liked the sauce traditionally served alongside siyyadieh…
You will need:
Large white fish, like sea bass, red snapper, or cod, not quite one per person (if you have n dinner guests, get n-1 fish)
2 cups of basmati rice
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cashews
Spices to taste: salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, hot pepper, cinnamon, and cardamom
First, fry the nuts in vegetable oil until they lightly brown; set aside.
Rub the fish down with olive oil and salt (like you mean it).
Add the rest of the vegetable oil to the pan and fry the fish till tender; take out as many bones as possible, divide the meat into smaller, more manageable pieces, and remove the heads but set them aside; they will be very important soon. Set the pieces of fish aside as well.
Fry the onions in the reserved oil, still in the pan, until they are crispy and brown (this is when everything starts to smell extra amazing). Remove and set aside three tablespoons of the fried onions.
Add the fish heads, spices, and four cups of water to the fried onions; cover and let simmer for half an hour or so.
Remove the fish head, bring to a boil and add the rice. Cover and cook over low heat for 25 minutes, adding water and adjusting spices as needed. Continue cooking till water is gone.
Put the rice on a serving plate, place fried fish on top and sprinkle with fried onions and nuts. And enjoy!