Citizens, a dear friend of Jewish Sephardic heritage just asked me this morning for a recipe for chraime, a classic, spicy fish dish served on the Sabbath in Sephardi households.
It originates from north Africa and is a mainstay of Moroccan, Tunisian, Algerian and especially Libyan Jewish households.
The history of the Jews in Libya stretches back to the 3rd century BCE, when Cyrenaica was under Greek rule. The Jewish population of Libya, a part of the Sephardi-Maghrebi Jewish community continued to populate the area continuously until the modern times.
During World War II, Libya’s Jewish population was subjected to anti-semitic laws by the Fascist Italian regime and deportations by German troops.
After the war, anti-Jewish violence caused many Jews to leave the country, principally for Israel, though significant numbers remained in Rome and many later emigrated to various communities in North America.
Under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who ruled the country from 1969 to 2011, the situation deteriorated further, eventually leading to the emigration of the remaining Jewish population. The last Jew in Libya, 80-year-old Rina Debach, left the country in 2003.
The oldest trace of a Jewish existence in Libya appears in Sirte, which some archaeological surveys made on the “Barion” region there dated its synagogue to the 10th century BCE, during King Solomon’s reign.
There is evidence for Jews living in Benghazi from 13 BCE. They were considered citizens, but were ruled by a Jewish Archon unlike the rest of the Jews in that area.
As to chraime, there are no specific rules for this recipe, except make it flavorful – the type of fish can be easily varied to whatever is freshest at the market that day. Just make sure to get the fish cut into crosswise steaks – I note my favorite fishes to use in the recipe.
The spices are classically north African – cumin, caraway, paprika and garlic (lots of garlic!) and this is not a difficult dish to put together, Citizens. I hope you will see fit to add this to your repertoire, perhaps paired with a Libyan Jewish Appetizer!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
The Hirshon Israeli Fish in Spicy Tomato Sauce – חריימה
- Total Time: 0 hours
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 large tomatoes, diced small
- 1/3 cup tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo red pepper flakes, or to taste
- Good pinch freshly ground cloves
- Good pinch freshly ground caraway
- 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground cumin
- 3 bay leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon ground
- 3/4 tablespoon paprika
- 1/4 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch flat parsley
- 1 small bunch cilantro + extra for garnish
- 1/2 Moroccan preserved lemon, skin only, rinsed
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced thin lengthwise
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 pieces thick-cut Chilean sea bass, black cod (TFD preferences) or use thick-cut salmon or halibut fillets. In Israel, Amberjack is the classic fish used in this recipe
- Pat fish dry and season generously with salt and pepper.
- In a frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the fish, skin side down, and fry until the skin is brown and crisp, about 4 minutes.
- Flip the fish and cook the flesh side for about 30 seconds and remove. Do not cook through.
- In a large wide-bottom pot, bring the water, oil, tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, cloves, cumin, caraway, bay leaves, and paprika to a boil.
- Meanwhile, coarsely grind the garlic, parsley, cilantro, and preserved lemon in a food processor using the pulse button. Add the ground mixture to the pot and stir. Add the red pepper and the fish, and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the temperature to medium and cook covered for 10-15 minutes. Transfer the fish onto a platter with a slotted spoon. check the cooking liquids in the pot: If they are too thin, reduce them at high temperature until thickened. Pour the sauce over the fish. Serve hot or at room temperature, making sure you top each serving with the sauce.
- Garnish with cilantro. Serve with Israeli couscous on the side.
- Prep Time: 0 hours
- Cook Time: 0 hours
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?
It says to leave the frying pan hot after browning the fish, but it is never called for again in the instructions. Is there a step missing?
That is indeed an error – I’ll fix it now, thanks for catching it!!! 🙂