Hilary Biller shares her grandmother's pickled fish recipe Picture: Toby Murphy

Easter is less than a week away and for many South Africans that means pickled fish, hot cross buns and chocolate eggs.

In The Great South African Cookbook published by Quivertree Publications, contributor Hilary Biller shares her grandmother’s pickled fish and whole wheat seed loaf recipe.

Biller speaks fondly of her grandmother’s cooking and says pickled fish was always served at Easter and Christmas.

The foodie, author and television cook says: “my maternal grandmother was an excellent cook of traditional Afrikaans food, and I have wonderful memories of meals at my grandparents’ home in Pretoria.

Pickled fish was served at Easter and Christmas and she would always make a big quantity the week before each celebration, which we would greedily eat with thickly buttered, freshly made brown bread.

“My mother continued the tradition and her take was even better than my grandmother’s original version.”

Grandmother’s pickled fish

Serves: 6-8

Prep time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes plus pickling


60g flour


White pepper

1½ -2kg fresh hake, cut into portions

Oil for frying


1kg onions, sliced into rings

375ml (1½ cups) water

30-45ml (2-3 tbsp) curry powder

100g soft brown sugar

2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

3 bay or lemon leaves

7½ml (1 ½ tsp) ground coriander

6 black peppercorns

1 fresh chili, seeded and sliced (add more if desired)

375ml (1 ½ cups) good quality white vinegar

125ml (½ cup) cornflour

15ml (1 tbsp) water


You need to prepare this dish 3-5 days before you wish to serve.

Season the flour with salt and white pepper.

Dip the fish pieces into the flour, coating on both sides.

Heat the oil and fry the fish on both sides until golden brown and cooked through.

Place on a paper towel to drain.

To make the curried pickling sauce, place the onion rings in a large pan, add the first amount of water and bring to boil. Simmer for five minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients, including the vinegar and second amount of water, but excluding the corn flour, to the onions.

Bring to boil and simmer for five minutes.

Mix the corn flour to a paste with 30ml (2tbsp) water and add to the onion mixture.

Bring to the boil and simmer, stirring, until thickened, about another 5-8 minutes.

Arrange the fish and curry sauce in layers in a large glass of ceramic dish (don’t use a plastic container).

Cover and refrigerate for 3-5 days before enjoying the thickly sliced whole wheat seed loaf (see recipe below).

Hilary Biller shares her grandmother's pickled fish recipe Picture: Toby Murphy

Whole Wheat seed loaf

Makes one large loaf or six mini loaves.

Prep time: 15 minutes plus rising

Cooking time: one hour


4x 250ml whole wheat flour

3x 250ml cake or white bread flour

250ml (1 cup) bran

20ml salt

1x 10g sachet instant yeast

30ml brown sugar or runny honey

50ml oil

750ml warm water

250ml mixed seeds (sunflower, sesame, poppy, pumpkin)


In a large bowl, combine the wholewheat and cake or white bread flours.

Stir in the bran, salt and yeast. Mix through.

Combine the sugar or honey, oil and warm water and, using a wooden spoon, slowly add to the dry mixture. It may need all the liquid or may require extra. you want quite a wet dough, almost like a thick batter.

Stir through half the seeds.

Spoon the mixture between medium loaf pans, sprayed with cooking spray.

Sprinkle the remaining seeds of the tops of the two loaves.

Lightly press down the seeds so they stick to the dough.

Cover lightly and leave in a warm place until the dough rises to be level with the tops of the pans.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

Bake for 50-60 minutes.

Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a cooling rack.

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