Not just a recipe, a piece of history as well! Try this PICKLED FISH Easter recipe being cooked all over Cape Town this week. Thanks to our South African ifabber ANNE SHIRLEY for this.
The origin of pickled fish is unclear and varied but is definitely Cape Malay.
Cape Malay cuisine originates from a colourful history of intermingling cultures brought together by the 17th-century slave trade. Malay cuisine is characterised by the liberal intermingling of spices and the influence of Indian, Dutch and French traditional food as well as the predominance of the Islamic religion.
The history of Cape Malay cuisine in South Africa begins with the involuntary migration of Africans, Asians and Indonesians around the world, and with it their diverse origins and culinary techniques.
The colonisation of Africa and Asia by the European powers led to an explosion in the global slave trade. However, when the abolishment of slavery came about, the former slaves settled in and around the areas in which they had been living – namely Cape Town and specifically the Bo-Kaap (Upper Cape), an area in Cape Town on the slopes of Signal Hill. The name ‘Cape Malay’ refers to followers of the Islamic faith and encompasses a rich culture of Eastern juxtaposed by Western heritage.
Whatever the story is, one thing is certain, in the week leading up to Easter just about everyone in Cape Town is preparing pickled fish!Just as confusing is the ‘perfect recipe’! Most are handed down from generation to generation. Mine comes from my British grandmother who got it from a Muslim lady, with a few tweaks! I do it every year and on Good Friday this followed by hot cross buns is the way to go.
Here it is!
PICKLED FISH CAPE TOWN STYLE
1kg fresh hake (snoek, kabeljoe or yellowtail also used)
3 large onions
4T curry powder
4T Demerara sugar (sticky brown)
2T white sugar
1T pickling spice
5 bay leaves
Brown grape vinegar
Coat fish in seasoned flour (salt and pepper) and fry and turn. Set aside in a dish lined with paper towels and cover with towels to absorb oil.
Slice the onions in rings about 6mm thick and just bring to the boil and drain.
Place back in a pot and cover with vinegar – they will float so check where they level before adding vinegar.
Add one mug of water, salt, bay leaves and pickling spice. Boil for about 10 minutes.
While boiling, mix turmeric and curry powder in a little cold water to form a paste. When the onions are semi-soft after about 10 minutes, add this plus all the sugar and stir in.
Place layers of fish and onions in a deep dish till all the fish is covered then pour over the remaining liquid. Decorate with the bay leaves. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 days. Serve cold with buttered bread, LEKKER!*
*Afrikaans for luscious/tasty/sexy/cool (take your pick!)