Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sayyadieh - Lebanese Fish and Rice with Onion Sauce

One of my favorite Mediterranean restaurants in Houston is Fadi's. The food and the quality is impeccable and I never turn down an offer to have lunch there. My husband attended a party recently and had a to-go box of a fish and rice dish that he brought home for the rest of us to sample (read GORGE on). I have never had this particular dish at the restaurant and couldn't place it on their menu - it definitely was not paella - it was some kind of simple rice pilaf, with pieces of cooked white fish fillets on top. But it was rich, buttery and heavenly!

On my next trip to the library, I ransacked all the Mediterranean cookbooks I could find to see if there was a recipe that sounded the same - and I found this recipe for Sayyadieh in Claudia Roden's cookbook Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon. She describes a rice dish cooked in an onion broth and served with pan-sauteed fish.  That sounded about right, and I set to work reproducing the recipe to suit our palettes at home.

While the final outcome was not exactly what we had sampled from Fadi's restaurant, it still comes in close and is definitely a keeper chez nous. There are three components to the dish - first onions are caramelized and blended into a broth. Rice is then cooked in the broth and served with sauteed fish, and the two served together with any remaining onion gravy.

Sayyadieh - recipe adapted from Claudia Roden's Arabesque

4 fish fillets - use any firm, (preferably) white fish fillets, skinned and de-boned. (I used salmon!)
1 heaped teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Rub the ginger-garlic paste, salt and pepper over the fish fillets and add lemon juice. Slice the fillets into pieces to facilitate cooking.
2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet, and pan/shallow fry the fillets till done (add oil as needed). Remove from pan and reserve.

Onion Sauce
3 large yellow onions - sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 fish/chicken/vegetable boullion cubes
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp allspice, 7-spice or garam masala powder
4 1/2 cups boiling water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat about 2 Tbsp of the oil in a large skillet, add onions, reduce heat to medium-low and cover skillet. Let the onions cook till they become soft and translucent. Occasionally stir.
2. Remove lid and let the onions caramelize and attain a deep brown color. Do not burn, so keep stirring frequently.
3. Remove the onions from the pan, add to a food processor or blender and add a cup of boiling water and puree the onions.
4. Return the puree to the skillet, add the remaining water and add all remaining spice seasonings and boullion cubes and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes on medium heat. Pour out the onion sauce and reserve.

1 1/2 cups Basmati rice, rinsed and soaked in water for about 30 minutes
Onion sauce prepared above
Splash of oil

1. Add oil to the skillet used to fry fish and heat. Drain the soaked rice, and add to the skillet. Stir fry the rice until you see the grains getting dry, about 2 minutes.
2. Pour 2 1/2 cups onion sauce into the rice and let the mixture come to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid and let the rice cook for approx 15 minutes. Different brands of Basmati rice have different cook times, so make sure you keep an eye on the rice. It may be best to use a non-stick pan to avoid the bottom layer of the rice from burning. Try not to stir the rice as it cooks as it can cause the mixture to become clumpy or break the grains.
3. Remove the rice from heat after it is cooked to your liking. Arrange the rice on a platter with the fish on top and garnish with toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds. Serve with the remaining reheated onion sauce or drizzle the sauce on top of the rice.


Joanne said...

I love discovering new Middle Eastern dishes and this is one that I've never encountered before! It sounds so simple, yet I'm sure that in it's simplicity is sheer deliciousness!

Pavithra Elangovan said...

Absolutely yumm yumm :)

Umm Mymoonah said...

Looks different, should try it sometime. I too love Middle Eastern Cuisine.

Unknown said...

you sealed it for me with those magic words, caramelized onions - sounds awesome

Adele said...

Yes! Caramelised onions! I'm trying to incorporate more fish into our diets, and I think this sounds awesome. Thanks very much.

Not Quite Nigella said...

This sounds so divine and adapting one of Claudia Rodens recipe is a great idea! :)

amna said...

that's quite an impressive recipe! love the name :)

Namitha said...

Interesting recipe :-)Though I do not like fish that much, I'm seriously tempted :-) Looks so wonderful.

tasteofbeirut said...

I remember when my mother was coaching me about the key to a good siyadeyeh she said : it is all in the heads!
She meant the stock's flavor came from the fish heads!
Glad you liked it and made it; your version sounds wonderful.