Pickled Fish – an Easter Tradition…

Pickled Fish – photo by Jane-Anne Hobbs

Pickled Fish is such a tradition at the Cape, and interestingly it is very popular at Easter time.  Some say that is was made to feed the masses on Good Friday after the three hour church service in the morning, while others say this is not so as the dish is very popular with our Muslim brethren.  That said, few Cape homes would not have their own recipe for “kerrievis” as pickling was a popular way of preserving fish in the days before refrigerators.

Here in the Cape, I notice supermarket shelves with large displays of pickled fish around Easter Weekend.

Often served as a first course with bread and butter, pickled fish is served as a main course with a salad of potato and accompanied by some dressed lettuce leaves.

Here is our recipe which Madeleine put together for when I went to the Margaret River Wine Festival one November to cook and present a Buffet of Cape Foods in the Voyager Wine Estate Restaurant for the nine day duration of the Festival.

You’ll need
2kg fillet of fish, all bones removed and cut into squares of about 6cm
seasoned flour
125ml sunflower, peanut or canola oil

4 large onions, peeled, cut in half and then into thick slices
70ml sunflower, peanut or canola oil
3 Tbs aromatic mild curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbs whole allspice
125g natural sugar
1 Tbs peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger or galangal root
1 Tbs finely chopped chilis, seeds and veins removed
3 bay leaves cut in strips with scissors
2 tsp sea salt
freshly milled black pepper
500ml white wine vinegar
250ml water
3 fresh bay or lemon leaves

Cook the fish two days ahead of requiring the dish.  Pat the fish dry and dip into the seasoned flour.  Fry in the hot oil for about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through.  As the fillets are cooked, remove and drain on kitchen towels and allow to cool.  If desired, the fish can be brushed with oil and baked for about 25 minutes in an oven heated to 180°C.

Prepare the pickle.  Fry the onions gently in the vegetable oil until they are transparent but have not lost their crunch – the crunch is important.  Add the curry powder, turmeric, paprika and coriander.  Fry over gentle heat for a short while to release the aromatic oils from the spices.  Add the remaining ingredients [except vinegar, water and fresh bay or lemon leaves] and cook gently for 2 minutes.  Pour over the vinegar and water gently to prevent splashing.  Over high heat bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer the pickle for ten minutes.

Construct the dish by pouring a bit of the pickle into a glass or china dish.  Place a single layer of the fish on top and cover that with pickle.  Build up layers of fish and pickle ending with a layer of pickle on top.  Place the fresh bay or lemon leaves on top.  Cover loosely and allow to cool completely.  When cold, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for two days.

Serve the pickled fish with the marinated onions and a little bit of the sauce.

Serves 6 as a main course or 10 as a first course

Jane-Anne Hobbs

The photograph illustrating this recipe was given to me by Jane Anne Hobbs who is one of the Cape best known cooks and food bloggers.  She has a delicious lemony pickled fish recipe that you will find on her blog by clicking here