Cape Pickled Fish with Lime, Thyme & White Pepper – Jane-Anne Hobbs

Jane Anne Hobbs Cape Pickled FishJane Anne Hobbs’s Cape Pickled Fish with Lime, Thyme & White Pepper

With Easter upon us, Jane-Anne Hobbs gives a new twist to Pickled Fish, traditionally eaten on Good Friday.

Cape Pickled Fish with Lime, Thyme & White Pepper

For the fish
1 kg firm-fleshed white fish, such as yellowtail or angelfish, skin on
½ cup (125 ml) cornflour, for dusting
salt and white pepper
3 Tbsp (45 ml) sunflower or canola oil

For the pickle
3 Tbsp (45 ml) sunflower or canola oil
3 onions, peeled and sliced into rings (not too finely)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
a thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
4 tsp (20 ml) black mustard seeds
12 black peppercorns
3 whole white cardamom pods
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

[optional] 3 bay leaves
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sugar
4 Tbsp (60 ml) rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
2 tsp (10 ml)  turmeric
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) white pepper
2 tsp (10 ml) cumin
2 tsp (10 ml) mild curry powder
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
the juice of 4 limes (or 3 lemons, if you can’t find limes)
1 tsp (5 ml) finely grated lime (or lemon) zest
a few large sprigs of lemon thyme
1 cup (250 ml ml) water

To top
extra sprigs of fresh lemon thyme, and fresh lemon leaves

Cape Malay Pickled Fish ingredientsA still life of ingredients

Cut the fish into portions each about the size of a deck of cards. Put the cornflour on a plate and season with salt and a little white pepper. Press the fish pieces into the cornflour, top and bottom, then shake them energetically to remove the excess. Heat the 3 Tbsp of oil in a pan over a medium-high heat, and when it is good and hot, fry the fish pieces, in batches, for 2-3 minutes on each side (depending on how thick the pieces are) or until golden brown and just cooked through. Take care not to over-cook the fish, or it will dry out. Remove from the heat and set aside on a plate.

Now make the pickling mixture. Wipe the pan clean of oil and residue using a piece of kitchen paper.  Heat 2 Tbsp of sunflower or canola oil in the pan, over a medium-high flame. When the oil’s hot, add the onion rings, and fry, stirring now and then, for 2 minutes, but no longer (it’s important that the onions retain their crunch). Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute, without letting the garlic brown. Scrape the onions, garlic and ginger into a bowl and set aside.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over a medium-high heat in the same pan and add the mustard seeds, peppercorns, cardamom pods and red chilli [optional]. When the mustard seeds begin to crackle, add the bay leaves, sugar and vinegar. Bring to the boil, then stir in the turmeric, white pepper, cumin, curry powder, salt and half a cup (125 ml) water. Cook the mixture for 2-3 minutes at an energetic bubble, or it has thickened slightly and the strong vinegar flavour has dissipated. Stir in the lime juice and zest, the lemon thyme sprigs, the remaining half-cup (125 ml) of water and the reserved onion/garlic/ginger mixture. 

Simmer gently for another minute and then remove from the heat.

 Tip half of this mixture into the bottom of a ceramic or plastic dish just big enough to hold all the fish in a single layer.  Pour the remaining mixture on top, making sure every piece of fish is well coated with the pickling liquid. Top with a few extra sprigs of lemon thyme, plus some fresh lemon leaves, if you can find these. Cover the dish tightly with clingfilm or a lid, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours – preferably 24 – turning the fish now and then in its pickle. 

Serve cold, with buttered brown bread, and perhaps some cold crunchy salads, or warm boiled potatoes.

 This mixture keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.

Serves 6-8 as a snack.

Michael’s wine recommendation – CLICK HERE

Chenin Blanc Barrel Fermented 2013
Jane-Anne Hobbs copyJane-Anne Hobbs

Jane-Anne Hobbs is a food writer de luxe. Recipe developer and photographer, she has written a stunning cookbook Scrumptious.  Always on the look out for low carb dishes, she has latterly come up with some stunners. When she is not in her kitchen Jane-Anne runs one of South Africa’s most successful food websites and Facebook page –

CLICK HERE to go to her website.

Spoon logo

March 18th, 2016|Categories: Recipes|Tags: , , |