M’tsoloa by Ma Mariama
We discovered a beautiful book called In Bibi’s Kitchen that is a collection of fascinating stories, evocative images, and recipes made by bibis (grandmothers) from eight different African countries. Ma Mariama, one of the bibis, lives in Salimani, Itsandra, Grand Comore. She makes a flavourful nourishing stew from mackerel fish, plantains, and coconut milk.
M’tsolola is made throughout Comoros and is a dish meant to be shared with friends and family. Ma Mariama says “Wageni ni Baraka,” which translates to “Guests are a blessing” and we agree wholeheartedly.
We’ve adapted this special fish recipe for you to try at home.
Serves 6 to 8
2 jalapeño peppers, stem removed and discarded
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp sea salt or kosher salt
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
2 pounds mackerel or herring, cut into 2-inch pieces, see note
4 green plantains
2 pounds cassava (also called yuca)
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 large banana leaf (optional)
2 14-ounce cans regular unsweetened coconut milk
Coarsely chop jalapeño peppers (see tip below) and garlic and place into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add salt and lime juice. Pulse ingredients into a paste.
Add pepper paste and fish into a large bowl. Mix ingredients well so that all the fish is evenly covered with the paste. Cover and store in the refrigerator while you prepare your other ingredients. Fish can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
Fill a large bowl with ice-cold water. To prepare the plantains (see tip below) use a sharp paring knife to trim the ends. Peel, then cut the plantains in half lengthwise, then cut each into four pieces. Place plantains into ice water to keep them from browning.
Remove the tough outer layer of your cassava. This can be done with a sharp paring knife, and sometimes works better than using a peeler. Once the cassava outer layer is removed, slice into ¼ inch rounds. Add to water bowl containing plantains and set aside.
Pour 2 cups of water into a large saucepan. Stir in prepared fish. Set pan over high heat, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook fish for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove fish onto a plate and set aside. You will be using the broth in the saucepan in the next step.
Drain the plantains and cassava. Add half of them to the pot with the broth. Place fish and red onion on top then add the remaining plantains and cassava. Rinse your banana leaf (if using) and place it over the stew ingredients in the saucepan to provide a covering. Place lid onto the saucepan and set over high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-high. Cook until plantains and cassava are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Uncover saucepan and stir in coconut milk. Bring stew back to a boil (uncovered) then immediately turn off the heat. Taste and add salt if you wish. Serve in bowls while hot. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Reheat, stirring frequently, on a low temperature setting.
Disposable kitchen gloves will come in handy for this recipe when chopping jalapeños and preparing plantains. Capsaicin, the active component that makes peppers hot, can linger on your fingers and can cause a burning sensation or be an irritant on contact with skin. Peeling plantains gets very sticky and gloves will make the task easier. So, a pair of gloves for this recipe will do welcome double duty to protect you from getting too hot and sticky.
Note: Mackeral and herring are rich oily fish with a strong flavour. They are considered to be two of the best varieties for our health and are rich in omega-3s. If you can’t find mackerel or herring, or prefer to use another fish, any firm dense variety will work. Voula Halliday, Stifado
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Listen to our Spotify Playlist:
while you make your STIFADO.