Zesty Fish Cake with Belizean Rice and Beans
As I journey alphabetically around the world I realize that my knowledge of geography sucks. Well, that’s not entirely fair, my knowledge of modern geography sucks. The problem is that I learned all the countries of the world when I was in elementary school and that was a long time ago (ok, a really long time ago). And, frankly, there are a whole bunch of countries that just couldn’t be content with the names I learned, so, they changed them. This is further complicated by the fact that my schools used really out of date textbooks, which insisted on calling Belize, British Honduras, which it had changed in 1973. Kids today don’t know how lucky they are that they don’t have to rely solely on textbooks, they were uber boring and usually out of date by the time they were published. But I digress.
I first heard of Belize (by that name) about 12 years ago when I lived in Chicago. My husband tells me that Chicago has the largest population of Belizeans outside of Belize – I have no idea if this is true and he can’t remember where he read it, so let’s just leave it at there are a bunch of Belizeans in Chicago. When I heard “Belize”, it sounded like someplace in the South Pacific, so rather than ask and look ignorant, I assumed and actually ensured my ignorance for years to come.
Belize is in the Northeast corner of Central America. It’s bordered by Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean Sea. On this rather cold and rainy day in Boston, the pictures of the blue sea and white sandy beaches are torture. The food is diverse and all of the recipes I found sounded amazing. There’s a traditional chicken stew that is considered one of the national dishes, but given that we just did a stew covered burger, I decided to avoid repeating myself. Rice and beans is the other national dish – importantly this is different than beans and rice. Rice and beans involves cooking the rice and the beans together in coconut milk. With beans and rice each is cooked and served separately. I decided that I could use rice and beans to make a rice cake that would be tasty.
With such a lovely coastline, of course Belizeans enjoy a lot of wonderful seafood so I chose to make another fishcake to get us in the tropical spirit. The critical ingredient to get the real flavor of Belize is Achiote (also known as Annatto paste and Recado Rojo). It isn’t available in any of my local grocers, but I found it online and it was relatively inexpensive – you would also be able to find it in a Latin market. I tried to duplicate the flavor, or to find something that would make sense to substitute, but there really is no substitute. Achiote is a little tart, with flavors of nutmeg, pepper, paprika and chili, it isn’t hot/spicy, it’s just its own thing. The recipe is still pretty good if you don’t use the achiote, it’s just less interesting.
This is, to my taste, the best of the fish cakes so far. It has a tanginess and a richness of flavor that make it seem more substantial, yet still light. The starchiness of the rice cake is nicely balanced with the tomato, avocado and lemon aioli. Great summer time eating. I recommend a nice Sauvignon Blanc to compliment the flavors of the burger.
The recipe isn’t hard, it just takes a bit of time and planning. Make the aioli, slice tomato and avocado first, then make the rice cakes, then start the fish cakes. Ideally the rice cakes will still be warm and the fishcakes will be hot when you serve.
2 medium dried ancho chilies
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 pound cod or other flaky white fish
1 teaspoon peanut oil
½ cup onion minced
1 medium jalapeno minced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lime
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs lightly beaten
1-2 Tablespoons peanut oil.
4 Belizean Rice and Beans Cakes (recipe below)
1-2 tomatoes sliced thin
1 avocado sliced
Lemon Aioli (recipe below)
Place ancho chilies in a heat proof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let sit for at least 15 minutes to rehydrate. Remove seeds and chop chilies and set aside.
Heat coconut oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until oil is melted. Add cod, sprinkle with salt and lime juice. Cover and cook over medium heat for approximately 2 minutes per side or until fish is just cooked. You should have about 2 cups of cooked fish when you’re done. Flake fish into a large bowl and set aside. In a small sauté pan, heat 1 teaspoon peanut oil over medium heat. Add ancho chilies, onions, jalapenos and garlic and sauté until onions are just beginning to soften. Add to fish and mix with a wooden spoon until evenly combined. Add flour, baking powder and eggs and mix until combined. This will make a pretty wet mix, that’s ok, you want your cakes nice and moist. In a large nonstick pan, heat the 1-2 Tablespoons peanut oil (enough to cover the bottom) until shimmering. Form patties out of the fish mixture and place in the hot oil. Cook over med-high heat for about 2 minutes per side until nicely browned and cooked through.
Place one Belizean Rice and Beans cake on each plate. Lay 1-2 slices of tomato on each rice cake. Add cooked fishcakes to each plate and top with avocado and Lemon Aioli. Serve immediately.
Belizean Rice and Beans Cakes
1 cup uncooked long grained rice
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
15 oz can small red beans (rinsed and drained)
1½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs lightly beaten
2 teaspoons achiote paste
½ cup flour
1-2 Tablespoons peanut oil
In a medium saucepan, add rice, coconut milk, water, red beans and ½ teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is done. Place rice and beans into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. This makes a little too much, but the rice cakes make a nice snack. Form six rice patties and place on a plastic wrap covered platter, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.
Heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium high heat until shimmering. Place patties in oil and cook for approximately 2 minutes or until well browned. Turn and cook for another 2-3 minutes until browned and cooked through.
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup mayonnaise
Whisk ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use.
©Copyright Linda Monach 2011