Let’s see… It is clean, clear, cool, not too salty.. Well, I am talking about The Black Sea. The best sea that I ever swam in. But what’s even better is that it is home to the most delicious and special fish: European Anchovy aka Hamsi in Turkish.
European Anchovy is a very delicate fish and there are many dishes made by it in the Black Sea region in Turkey. My absolute favourite among these dishes is Rice with European Anchovy (Hamsili Pilav in Turkish). For this dish to have the best taste, the fish has to be really fresh therefore even while I am Turkey I cannot eat it always – it has to be the right season.
Fresh or not, you cannot find this fish here in Finland.. But you can find “Muikku” aka European Cisco in English. From the moment I saw muikku, I thought that it could be a good substitute for anchovy in this dish, and I was right! Of course it is not exactly the same taste and the original version still beats this one. But well, when you really really miss it, you can perfectly get satisfied with muikku version.
Since I used the fish from here, I gave the whole dish a Finnish name as well: Riisi Muikun Kanssa (Rice with European Cisco – well ok, not very original!). I made it for my guests in the latest “My Dear Kitchen in Helsinki Recipes Evening” and everyone liked it so I can say that it passed the test. If you want to know more about that event, read the related post here: https://mydearkitcheninhelsinki.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/my-dear-kitchen-in-helsinki-recipes-evening-february-22-2014/
Muikku is extremely hard to fully clean – European Anchovy is much more easier. But no can do, you HAVE TO take your time, hurt your fingers, be patient and completely clean the fish – you only need the fillets. So if you are patient enough, here is the recipe!
(serves 6 people)
1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil
3 onions, chopped into small pieces
1 tbsp / 15 ml pine nuts
1 cup / 2.5 dl rice, washed thoroughly and left in 1 lt boiling water for 30 minutes
1 cup / 2.5 dl water
1/2 tsp / 2.5 ml salt
1/2 tsp / 2.5 ml granulated white sugar
1 tsp / 5 ml ground cinnamon
1 tsp / 5 ml black pepper
Vegetable oil, to grease the mould
1 kg European cisco fillets (muikku in Finnish), completely cleaned – no head, no tail, no bones..
1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil (to pour on the fish at the last stage)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. In a frying pan, put 1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil and heat it for about 2 minutes in medium high heat.
3. Add onions and sauté them until they are soft.
4. Add pine nuts and stir for half a minute.
5. Add rice and stir for about 2 minutes.
6. Add water, sugar and salt, decrease the heat down to medium, cover the lid of the pan and cook the rice until all the water is absorbed by rice.
7. The pile of rice will have some holes when it is done as seen in the photo. At this stage turn the heat off. Add cinnamon and black pepper and stir it until all ingredients are nicely mixed.
8. Put a baking sheet at the base of a cake mould. Grease the sheets surface as well as the sides of the mould with some vegetable oil. Cover the base and sides of the mould with the fish fillets upside down, as seen in the photo.
9. Add all the rice on the fish fillets.
10. Cover the surface of the rice with more fish fillets. Pour 1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil on the surface. Put the mold in the oven, in middle rack. Bake it for about 20-25 minutes, until the fish are fully cooked, but not burned! This fish shrinks quite a lot when baked so you will have some holes in the fully covered surfaces, no can do… If you use European anchovy, you do not have such a problem..
11. When the dish is baked fully, take it out of the oven and leave it to cool down for a while before taking it out of the mold. At this stage you can add some salt and pepper. When it is fully cooled, take it out of the mold and turn upside down. You can add a little salt and pepper also on this side.
Enjoy your fish cake!