Saturday, July 16, 2011

~Cape Malay Pickled Fish~

What's Playing?  "Twist and Shout" by the Isley Brothers

picture from

Recipe from

  • Yield Serves 6 to 8

  • Ingredients

    • For Pickling

      • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
      • 4 large onions, halved and thickly sliced
      • 3 tablespoons mild curry powder
      • 1 teaspoon turmeric
      • 1 teaspoon paprika
      • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
      • 1 tablespoon whole allspice
      • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
      • 1 tablespoon peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger
      • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chiles, seeds removed
      • 3 dried bay leaves, thinly sliced
      • 2 teaspoons sea salt
      • 2 cups white-wine vinegar
      • 4 1/4 pounds Arctic char fillets, bones removed and cut into 5-ounce pieces
      • 3 fresh bay or lemon leaves
    • For Frying Fish

      • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
      • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • For Serving

      • 1/2 cup golden raisins
      • 1/2 cup coarse salt
      • 1 small head red cabbage, thinly sliced
      • 2 red apples, julienned
      • 2 ribs celery, trimmed and finely chopped
      • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
      • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
      • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
      • Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish


    1. Pickle the fish: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, about 20 minutes. Add curry powder, turmeric, paprika, and coriander; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add allspice, turbinado sugar, ginger, chiles, dried bay leaves, and salt; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
    2. Carefully add vinegar and 1 cup water; increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook pickling mixture for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour some of the pickling mixture into a 12-inch glass dish. Add an even layer of fish and pour over a little more of the pickling mixture. Add another layer of fish and repeat process until all the fish and pickling mixture have been used. Top with fresh bay or lemon leaves; loosely cover and let cool completely. Cover tightly and transfer dish to refrigerator; refrigerate for 2 days.
    3. Fry the fish: Remove fish from pickle, reserving onions, and pat dry. Place flour in a shallow dish and set aside. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge fish in flour, shaking off excess. Add fish to skillet and cook, turning once, until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer fish to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
    4. Serve: Meanwhile, place raisins in a small bowl and add enough water to cover; set aside. Fill a large bowl with 4 cups water; add salt and stir to combine. Add cabbage, apples, and celery; let stand 20 minutes.
    5. Drain raisins and cabbage mixture and add both to a large bowl along with parsley, mint, and cilantro; toss to combine. Serve fish topped with reserved pickled onions and cabbage mixture; garnish with cilantro leaves.
    Wow!  This was awesome!  Even my two and three year old enjoyed this meal.  There was even enough left over for snacks and lunch too. 

    The flavors are very complex but not too overpowering either.  The spices are blended in a balanced proportion and the "pickling" flavor might not be what is expected.  The flavor of the pickling sauce is not sour whatsoever, and is very mild.  This is perfect!  Thanks again Martha for posting yet another wonderful and  interesting recipe!

    Side Note:  I'm always up for cooking something new and different.  I don't often bother to tally up the cost as I just forge ahead to the market and go from there.  Oops.  Sorry, Ben.  I didn't realize how expensive fish is!  The cost of the fish was $68!  Ouch!  I'm still learning.... :/    The good news is that this did last for more than one meal so in the end it works out to be fairly affordable. 

    Photo Gallery

    Here are the spices and the fish.  I couldn't find the Arctic char fish-even at Whole Foods.  The fishmonger told us that we could substitute with either Cod or Halibut.  We chose Cod because it was slightly cheaper.  It still cost us nearly $70 just for the fish!  So, consider this before heading to the store like I did.  If you do make this recipe it will last for more than one meal (unless you are cooking this for a large group).  The fishmonger said that this quantity is enough for seven people.  It is worth the cost- very, very tasty!
     Gabriel and Sarah were intrigued by the large bag of fish.  They took turns holding it and were excited about having that much fish in our kitchen.  Kids...excited about the little things-love it!
    This is what the onions and spices look like when they are mixed together and boiled.  The house smelled really good as all of the spices were percolating on the stove.
    I layered the fish in between layers of onions and pickling juice (according to recipe above).  It sat for two days in our fridge.  I suggest putting some plastic under your pan just in case juices spill or leak as it soaks.  While it was marinating the kids were very happy to know that we had some fish "soaking" and "swimming" right in our little fridge!  It was a hot topic for them.

    Okay, two days have passed.  Gabriel is more than ready to fry up the fish that has been "swimming" in his fridge.  He was under direct supervision at all times while he watched me cook at the stove.   We had a cover over the hot pan that prevented hot grease from escaping the pan. 

                                               The little chef.                                              
    This is the handy grease cover that we put over the fish while the fish cooked.

    Here are two of the cod fillets cooking.

    Gabriel and Sarah were ecstatic! 
    The fish is almost done.

    For serving, apples and cabbage will be soaked in some salt water along with some spices.  This creates a salty-sweet mixture that moistens and garnishes the fish.

    The broth

    All Done!  Now we took the fish and some other goodies to Folsom Lake here in Granite Bay, California to have some fun.  Let's see how it went, shall we?

    I plated the food on a picnic table.  The kids didn't want to come to the table (the sand castle was needing some windows).  However, Grandpa Carl and I were getting hungry so we sat down for some lunch.  Let's see what he thought. 

    The moment of truth.  Will he like it? 

    He likes it! Later that evening Ben came home from work and sat down to try the famous pickled fish that had been the topic of conversation for the past few days.  He really enjoyed the flavor and texture of the dinner.  Ben said, "It's a good thing!"   ;)  

    ~Dinner Was Served~

    Miscellaneous Photos of Folsom Lake

    Sarah and Gabriel
    Here they are with Grandpa Carl
    Grandpa Carl took a brief nap after his meal.  Here he is just after awakening.  He awakened to a big smack across the face from Sarah.  Sarah didn't want her super-cool playmate to fall to have a nap just yet.  Grandpa is such a good sport- we love you Grandpa Carl!

    ~Summer Fun~


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