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Cod Chraymeh or North African fish stew

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

This stew derives its name from the way this dish is prepared and eaten, fast, and hot, almost grabbing the stew with a piece of bread, almost like stealing the food from the plate. The term literally means "bastard". This stew is just delicious, full of flavor from the peppers, harissa paste, and warm Northern African spices.

Although traditionally it is served with a bread, a hearty country loaf, you can also serve it with pita bread, or as I have, with couscous. In my case commercial Mediterranean curry couscous. They complimented each other beautifully.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


4 tablespoons oil, I use olive oil

1-3 red chilies, deseeded and diced. Adjust to taste but remember this dish is meant to be spicy.

5 red peppers, cored and sliced into 1 inch strips.

5 garlic cloves, diced fine

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon Hawaij spice mix. See recipe below.

5 tablespoons any anise seed liquor, Uozo, Pastis, Pernod or other. (Optional). I occasionally add a teaspoon of ground anise seeds to compensate.

1 tablespoon harissa, or to taste. Commercial brand is fine.

1/2 - 1 cup water or chicken stock

14.5 oz canned tomatoes, without skins, chopped. If you are using tomatoes with skin, puree them. Tomato skins in the stew tend to spoil the texture.

Pinch of sugar

4 oz cod fillets. Can also use other fish fillets, or shrimp, clams, mussels and other shellfish.

1 large bunch cilantro

Salt to taste

Lemon juice

Heat the oil in a pot and add the peppers and chilies. Saute on medium stirring occasionally, heat till the peppers are soft, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the dry spices and cook for 8-10 minutes on a low flame so as not to burn the spice, till the spices give out a tantalizing aroma. Add the anise liquor if using and cook till the liquor has boiled off. Add the harissa paste and cook for 3-4 minutes, mixing everything well to coat the peppers with the spices.

Add the tomatoes, stock/water, sugar, half the cilantro and salt and simmer closed for about 20 minutes till the sauce comes together and is thick and flavorful. Taste and adjust for salt, sweet and spice.

add the cod or seafood and cook on a low simmer for 10-12 minutes till the fish are cooked through. Finish with a generous twist of lemon juice.

Serve loaded in a bowl topped with diced cilantro and with bread, pitas or couscous.

Hawaij spice mix:

4 tablespoons black peppercorns

4 tablespoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds

1 teaspoon whole cloves

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

2 tablespoons ground turmeric

2 tablespoons dried cilantro.

Toast all whole spices on a frying pan individually, till aromatic and lightly browned. Cool completely. Add all ingredients to a spice mill or coffee grinder and pulse till you have a fine powder.

Store in an airtight container. It will last on your shelf for quite some time.

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