Thursday, 21 April 2011

Pickled fish

In the UK, it is common to eat salmon on Good Friday. In many South African communities, particularly on the Cape Flats, where there is a strong Cape Malay influence, it is more common to eat pickled fish.

These days I can buy almost everything that formed a part of my shopping list in South Africa at at least one of my local supermarkets, but pickled fish is an exception (there is one other, and perhaps I will find and share a recipe at some point).

I was bemoaning this fact to a fellow ex-pat a couple of years back, and she happily shared her recipe with me, advising me to get myself a copy of the Cape Malay cookbook. To my embarrassment, I realised that not only did I have this cookbook, I used it fairly often. It had just never occurred to me to make my own pickled fish... or even to look for a recipe! I used to buy canned pickled fish in South Africa. It was one of those things you don't think of making (like baked beans and tuna).

So, if you'd like to try a slightly different fish tomorrow, how about this? It's almost certainly going to be cheaper than salmon!

I'm sharing the recipe today, because it needs 24 hours marinading time.

1kg (ish) of firm fleshed white fish
2 pinches salt
10ml red masala (or medium curry powder if you can't get masala)
175ml sunflower oil
1 cardamom pod, split open
375ml malt (brown) vinegar
10ml turmeric (borrie)
5ml chilli powder
15ml sugar
2 onions, thinly sliced
250ml water
2 bay leaves
2 curry leaves (if you can't get these, add more bay leaves)
4 allspice
1 whole clove

  • Blot the fish with paper towel and then sprinkle with one pinch of salt and about half of the masala. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes.
  • Heat oil and cardamom pod in a frying pan and shallow fry fish until light brown.
  • Remove fish from pan and spread in a large, shallow dish (not aluminium). Set aside for now.
  • In a saucepan, place vinegar, turmeric, sugar, second pinch of salt, the rest of the masala, chilli powder, onion rings and water. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the bay leaves, curry leaves, allspice and clove and remove from the heat.
  • Allow to cool slightly, then pour over the fish, covering the fish completely.
  • Cover and set aside for 24 hours for the flavours to develop.
  • Serve with buttered bread and a green salad.

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