This Tomato Fish Stew pairs well with rice. It is garlicky, so flavorful with a nice sweetness for the tomatoes.
Prepare the fish. Use kitchen shears to cut the fins off the fish. Scrape off the scales from the fish using a knife. Cut each fish into 4 pieces. I cut and discard the head but you could include it if you want. Clean out the entrails of the fish carefully with a knife. Place the fish in a colander and rinse thoroughly under running water.
Prepare the spice blend. Reserve 1 sprig of basil to use later. Place the rest of the basil, garlic and ginger into a blender (I use the small cup of my Ninja blender). Add about ¼ cup water and blend into a paste.
Season the fish. Add a tablespoon of the spice blend to the fish. Add ⅛th of a teaspoon of salt to the fish. Mix well so the seasoning gets all over the fish.
Cook the fish. Cover a baking tray with aluminium foil. Generously rub some of the oil (about 2 tablespoons) over the foil. Place the fish in a single layer on the foil. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees C). Place the fish in the oven and cook for 15-17 minutes.
Blend the tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and add to a blender. Blend into a rough paste.
Make the stew. Place a heavy duty pot (preferably a cast iron pot) on high heat. Add the remaining oil to the pot and let it heat up for 3 minutes. Add the chopped onions to the pot and stir. Let it saute until soft.
Add the blended tomatoes and let it cook while stirring from time to time for 15 to 20 minutes until the tomatoes shrink considerably. Do not let the tomatoes burn.
Add the remaining spice blend to the tomatoes and stir for 2 minutes.
Add in 1 ½ cups of water, the remaining salt, the white pepper and sprinkle in the Maggi seasoning cubes. Stir well to combine. Add habanero or scotch bonnet pepper if using.
Add the cooked fish carefully into the pot and let everything simmer together for about 5 minutes. Avoid stirring vigorously once the fish is in the pot. Only move the fish pieces around gently to ensure they aren't sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Remove the excess oil. Use a ladle or cook spoon to remove half a cup of oil from the pot. Reserve this oil to use in other recipes like Jollof Rice.
Garnish the stew. Chop the reserved sprig of basil and sprinkle over the stew. Turn off the heat.
1. Use super ripe tomatoes with a bright red color so the fish stew isn't too tangy.
2. Skim out half a cup of oil at the end of cooking to reduce calories. Cooking the tomatoes in this quantity of oil yields great taste.
3. I used a kind of fish called "round scad". I got it from an Asian store. Other kinds of fish like mackerel or croaker fish will work too. Asian stores in the United States mostly carry whole fish. You could also use fish fillets if that works better for you.
4. Nutritional information is an estimate and takes into consideration the fact that half of the oil is skimmed out at the end of cooking.