Monday, January 1, 2018

Marinated Sweet and Sour Fish

I love fish but don't eat it often enough, which is odd considering how quick it can be to cooked for a weeknight supper. This recipe does not fit into the weeknight supper category unless you make it the day before, but it is lovely if you do! It features fried fish fillets and sweet peppers in a curry-flavoured sweet and sour marinade.

I usually make it with pollack or cod fillets, but you you could use any firm-fleshed sustainably-sourced fish, including halibut, hake, or haddock fillets, or small fish, such as red mullet, sardines, or small mackerel.

It is meant to be served at room temperature as a starter or light supper, but I have also served it warmed up as part of an Indian meal. In fact, in winter I always prefer it warm.

The recipe is adapted from Ottlogenghi's Jerusalem cookbook, but it reminds me a bit of a South African recipe for pickled fish that I encountered in the Time-Life Foods of the World: Africa cookbook. Ottolenghi gives Danielle Postma the credit for this recipe, and Postma is a Dutch (Frisian) name which I assume would also be common in South Africa, so who knows where its origins really lie.

Marinated sweet and sour fish

I adapted the original recipe by finishing the dish on the stove top, rather than transferring it to the oven to cook for 10-12 minutes. Fish is delicate and overcooking it is a cardinal sin, so if it is almost cooked during the frying stage, it is easier to keep an eye on it on the stove.

You can start the marinade first and fry the fish in a separate frying pan as the marinade cooks, or start by frying the fish and then use the same pan to make the marinade. If you are using a single pan, use a saute pan or casserole that is large enough to accommodate the vegetables and fish. Either way, the fish is added to the marinade at the end.


500-600 grams sustainably-sourced fish fillets or small fish, scaled and gutted
2-4 tablespoons of flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon oil


2 medium onions, sliced 1 cm thick.
2 bell peppers, 1 red and 1 yellow, sliced in 1 cm strips
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 garlic gloves, crushed
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons apple or cider vinegar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
aprox. 250 ml water
1-2 tablespoons coriander leaf for garnish

  1. Prepare the vegetables, slicing the onions and peppers 1 cm thick, and chopping the tomatoes.
  2. Sprinkle the fish with salt, roll in the seasoned flour, then dip in the egg. (This helps to keep the fish together in the marinade, so don't omit this step.)
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan or saute pan. 
  4. Fry the fish for 3 minutes on each side, then transfer to paper towels and set aside. 
  5. Wipe out the pan, and heat 2 tablespoons of oil.
  6. Add the onions and coriander seeds, and saute on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  7. Add the peppers and cook for another 10 minutes.
  8. Add the garlic, bay leaves, curry powder and tomoatoes, and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  9. Add the sugar, vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons, several grinds of pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  10. Add the fish to the pan, pushing the vegetables aside so the fish is nestled on the bottom of the pan.
  11. Add about 250 ml water to the pan, just enough to ensure the fish is submerged, then bring up to a gentle simmer.
  12. Poach the fish for 1-3 minutes until it is just cooked, and flakes when you gently insert a knife. The time required depends on the type of fish and the thickness of the fillets. (Personally, I think it is better if it is slightly underdone and finishes cooking in the marinade as it cools.)
  13. Remove the pan from the heat and let it come to room temperature. 
  14. You can serve it now or let it sit in the fridge for a couple of days. 
  15. To serve, let it come to room temperature or heat it up gently on stove. Taste, adjust the seasoning and sprinkle with chopped coriander leaf for garnish.

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