This recipe is based on my favorite childhood dish, chraime. It originated in Morocco and means “prohibited” or “illegal” in Arabic. As a child, I waited all week to eat it at Shabbat dinner. Lots of women in my family made it, but my aunt made it the absolute best.
While visiting her in Israel as an adult, she taught me exactly how to make chraime in her own kitchen. The only thing I didn’t like about her version were the slices of fish. So when I was working on my own recipe, I decided to keep the sauce the same as her recipe, but instead chopped up the fish with a knife to make fish balls instead. They have more of a fluffy texture, but still have a good bite. Now, my aunt makes my recipe for her grandchildren.
Note: Don’t use a food processor to chop the fish. It won’t have the same bite or texture.
For the fish balls:
- 350g white fish, finely diced (I prefer cod or red snapper)
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 green chili, finely diced
- 1 egg
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- a handful of chopped cilantro
- a handful of chopped parsley
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp sumac (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp bread crumbs
- a pinch of baking powder
For the sauce:
- 2 large red peppers, sliced into 10 strips
- 1 green chili, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
- 4 fresh, large tomatoes, finely diced
- 4 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp sweet paprika
- 1 lemon, deseeded and chopped into tiny cubes
- olive oil
- 3 cups water
- Mix all the ingredients for the fish balls until combined. Make golf-ball sized balls and lay them on a tray. You should have about 25.
- In a saucepan, pour a drizzle of olive oil and fry the fish balls very lightly on a medium heat on both sides — just so they can get a little bit of color (they don’t need to be fully cooked). Set aside.
- In the same saucepan, add another 2 Tbsp of olive oil, the red pepper slices, and the chopped green chili. Fry until they get a nice color, then add the garlic and lemon, and fry for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, sugar, and the rest of the spices, plus salt and pepper to your taste. Cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, mix well, and let it cook until it becomes very thick. Then add the water and let the sauce come to a boil.
- Add the fish balls and cook on a low heat for about 15-20 min.
- Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle with cilantro. You can serve it with white rice or couscous, but I love it with simply a thick slice of fresh challah bread and a generous drizzle of tahini.