“Smoking fish in West Africa is an age-old tradition, with smoked fish viewed as ‘food for the Gods’, and is often a part of religious ceremonies and presented on altars. Shito is made from smoked fish, chilli and palm fruit oil, which Kunle describes as ‘liquid gold’, extracted from the fruit (not the kernel) of the palm tree and with anti-viral and antibacterial properties. It’s like a coarse paste with a chilli warmth and a smoky flavour, and is traditionally served with fried plantains, blanched green leafy vegetables such as English spinach or kale, and steamed rice. It can also be used as a natural seafood flavour enhancer by adding to seafood soups or pasta.” Maeve O’Meara, Food Safari Fire
- 2 cup smoked dried fish, flaked or granulated (see Note)
- ½ cup air-dried school prawns (shrimps)
- 2 tbsp dried red chilli, chopped
- 1 tbsp dried green chilli, chopped
- 1 tbsp hot chilli powder
- 1 tbsp Himalayan pink salt
- 3 large red capsicums (bell peppers), chopped
- 400 g (14 oz) tomato puree
- 150 ml (5 fl oz) palm fruit oil (see Note)
- 100 ml (3½ fl oz) sunflower oil
- 2 white onions, chopped
- 45 g (1½ oz/⅓ cup) celery, chopped
- 10 g (¼ oz/⅓ cup) flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped
- 3 spring onions (scallions), chopped
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 1 hour
Using a high-speed blender, granulate the smoked fish if required, and the prawns. Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle. Add the chillies, chilli powder and pink salt. Mix through and set aside.
Blend the capsicums with the tomato to make a purée.
In a large pot on the stovetop over medium heat, heat the palm fruit oil and sunflower oil. Add the chopped onion, celery, parsley and spring onions. Sauté for a few minutes. Add the capsicum and tomato puree. Sauté for a few minutes, then add the dried fish and chilli powder mix.
Stir through and bring to the boil. Cover and let the shito simmer over low heat for an hour. The mixture will become quite thick and dark. Let it cool on the stovetop. Store in a container such as a bottle in the refrigerator. Keep the top of the shito covered with a layer of sunflower or palm fruit oil.
• Smoked dried fish can be obtained online from Tribal Tastes.
• Pure palm fruit oil is produced using the flesh of the palm fruit. It is a traditional West African oil with many health benefits including being rich in natural carotenes. It can be obtained from online health food shops and African food specialists.
Recipe from Food Safari Fire by Maeve O'Meara (Hardie Grant, hbk, $55). Photography by Toufic Charabati.