Kyla`s Pickled Fish

Serves 8 to 10

This is an old family recipe that my mother-in-law taught me when I was newly-married. Her grandchildren gave her the affectionate called ‘Kyla’, In the early 1800s the Green Point Common on the outskirts of Cape Town was a racecourse, where folk met twice a year for a day of sport and culinary delights such a suckling pig, braaied snoek, watermelon konfyt and pickled fish. The recipe was created by the Cape Malays, expert fishermen who are adept at preserving their catch to make it last as long as possible. The dish eloquently highlight the impact that Eastern influences had on local cuisine. It’s a favourite at festivals and feasts, particularly at Easter. Firm-fleshed yellowtail and snoek are favoured, but other fish may be substituted – even humble hake.

1,7–2 kg filleted fish (2,5–3kg on the bone)
vegetable oil
150 g sultanas (optional)

Pickling Sauce
750 ml white wine vinegar
250 ml water
200 ml sugar
10 ml turmeric
10 ml Roasted Masala, or curry powder
7 ml salt
15 ml black peppercorns
15 ml coriander seeds
4 onions, finely sliced
6 lemon or bay leaves
2 green or red chillies, sliced and seeded
6 slices green ginger
30 ml cornflour
125 ml water

Cut the fish into cubes or slices. Heat oil in a large frying pan for shallow frying, and fry the fish until cooked. Drain on kitchen paper. Remove the skin.

Pickling Sauce Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric, masala or curry powder, salt, peppercorns and coriander in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.

Add the onions, lemon or bay leaves, chillies and ginger, cover and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. The onion should be limp but still slightly crunchy. Mix together the cornflour and water and stir into the boiling sauce, stirring until it thickens slightly.

Layer the fish, sultanas and onions in a large non-metal dish, pour over the sauce, cover and refrigerate. Pickled fish may be eaten immediately; however the flavour is even better after a couple of days. Firm fish will keep for up to six months in the fridge; delicate types such as kob, geelbek or hake may be kept for two months.

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