There are about as many variations for spelling ceebu jen (thieboudienne, thiep bu dinenne, ceebujenn...) as there are to making it. This rice (ceeb) and fish (jen) recipe is the national dish of Senegal and can also be made with beef (ceebu yapp). If the dish looks familiar, it's because it's a descendent of paella.
Ingredients for 4 people:
2/3 to 1 cup oil
3 cups broken or small round rice
3-6 Tbsp tomato paste
4 wedges of cabbage, about 2 inches at thickest point
2 potatoes, sweet potatoes or other tubers, peeled (opt)
1-2 small eggplants (opt)
1-2 zucchini (opt - not authentic, but we like it)
1-2 onions sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
dried red pepper flakes
Scotch Bonnet hot sauce, or the hottest you have
fresh lemon wedges
A word about the fish. I used four filets of smoked herring that worked really well for flavor. You can also use fresh fish, whole or filets. (If you live near an African market that sells dried, smoked fish - that's the jackpot. Add just a small handful along with the veggies.) For quantity, that's up to you. Traditionally the Senegalese would use less fish than the average American meal because of high prices and over-fished waters.
Moving on...Below are two cooking methods. The Pro version is more authentic if you're using whole fish, but the Amateur version is the way I've modified it.
Pro version: Crush together garlic, parsley, pinch of salt and pepper and dried hot pepper. Rinse the fish. Make 3-4 holes in the fish and stuff with seasoning mixture. Heat oil in large saucepan. Add sliced onions and pinch of salt. Cook for five minutes.
Amateur version: Heat oil in large saucepan. Fry fish filets until golden. Add onions and garlic, chopped parsley, dried hot pepper and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for five minutes.
Dilute tomato paste with 1/2 cup water and add to pot. Add 6 cups water and largely chopped vegetables. (I put the cabbage wedges on top to keep them from breaking up too much.) Let simmer over medium heat until veggies are tender. Remove veggies and fish and 1/2 cup liquid.
Use the remaining broth to cook the rice. Add rice and cover. Reduce heat and cook until all liquid is absorbed and you begin to smell the rice on the bottom of the pan toasting.
Once cooked, Spread the rice out on a large platter. Arrange the fish and veggies in the center, then sprinkle the remaining 1/2 broth over top. Sprinkle with lemon juice.
Normally you eat from this common bowl, not from individual plates, with your right hand. The hostess will divide up the fish and veggies on to each person's rice portion in front of them. Take a piece of fish or veggies and some rice in your right hand. Squeeze to make a ball and pop it into your mouth.