For Food Sake

A fish masala recipe that will make you stay home

This masala and tamarind fish fry will remind you why it’s more convenient to enjoy delicious fresh food at home

06 June 2024 - 10:46 By Tshepo Mathabathe
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Fried fish, cooked at home, proved the winning option over takeaway pizza. Stock photo.
Fried fish, cooked at home, proved the winning option over takeaway pizza. Stock photo.

Growing up, how often did we hear, “there’s food at home”? Do you find yourself repeating these words of our mothers and aunts?

I prefer to eat at home. During lockdown my darling friend Fritz and I realised how much money we saved every week without our weekly drink that turned into a full meal. It was astonishing. As inflation rises and we are aghast at the ever-increasing price of lettuce, let alone staples, eating out becomes more of a treat than before.

I’ve never been a fan of ordering in. I prefer to whip up a quick pasta in the time it would take for a takeaway to arrive. However, the other night fatigue got the better of me and after languishing in a hot bath I chose to order a pizza for dinner. I had already taken fish out of the fridge that I’d marinated for two days.

You know those days when you walk into your home well intentioned to cook a righteous, healthy meal that will last a few days? Well, reality and vice set in and we choose “convenience”.

I lay on my bed finishing my read of the week. I’m in my romance era, courtesy of my friend’s @HeyGoodBooking Instagram page. The thought of starting with pots was the least of my wishes for the evening. I checked my app and my delivery was five minutes away. That status remained for the next hour.

After 20 minutes I got up, walked to the kitchen and decided I could not risk poisoning myself by putting the fish back in the fridge and resigned myself to cooking. I felt good after finishing my book and began with gusto, wondering when the delivery would arrive and if my cooking would be done before it arrived.

The driver messaged to say his bike had broken down and he was waiting on a friend to complete a trip nearby and then deliver my pizza. I was losing enthusiasm for the whole palava. It was my second pizza in less than a week, an indulgence I rarely allow myself, so I felt it was a sign to slow down on the Neapolitan-style pizzas.

I began warming the spices, blitzed tomato, onion, ginger, softened a piece of tamarind, while watching the lack of movement of the stranded bike on the app. I decided cooking was the best course of action.

Thus was born a delicious masala and tamarind fish fry. The pizza eventually arrived an hour later, ice cold and a reminder why ordering in has never been my favourite and I have food at home.


  1. 500g hake fillet cut into cubes and skinned — marinated overnight in two spoons of plain yoghurt, salt, white pepper, ½ teaspoon of masala, ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  2. 1 stalk curry leaves (6/8)
  3. 1 x teaspoon black mustard seeds
  4. 1 x teaspoon cumin seeds
  5. ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  6. ¼ teaspoon caraway seeds
  7. 1 pinch nutmeg
  8. 1 x teaspoon ground coriander
  9. ½ teaspoon turmeric
  10. 1 x small red onion
  11. 1 thumb sized piece of tamarind (put it in boiling water to soften)
  12. 500g ripe cherry tomatoes
  13. 1 x thumbnail sized piece of fresh ginger
  14. 5 x cloves fresh garlic (the more the merrier)
  15. A handful fresh coriander
  16. 1 x dried chilli
  17. 1 x tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  18. 2 x tablespoons ghee
  19. 1 x tablespoon avocado oil
  20. 1 x tablespoon muscovado sugar
  21. Salt and white pepper


  • In a food processor, combine the cherry tomatoes, fresh coriander, ginger, garlic, avocado oil, fennel seeds, tamarind (with water) and a ¾ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of white pepper and blitz until it forms a purée
  • On medium heat, heat up the spices and curry leaves for a minute
  • Add the ghee and let it melt and mix in the spices
  • Follow this with the blitzed tomato mixture and let it boil, reduce heat, simmer and let the flavour develop for 30 minutes
  • In a separate pan fry the fish on both sides in a little ghee to seal and give the fish some colour, place directly into the pot with the tomato mixture
  • Stir to combine and let it simmer for another 20 minutes.

Serve with jasmine rice and sliced cucumber for freshness. Sit back and enjoy until your doorbell rings with your takeaway and you chuckle to yourself while tucking into your delicious fresh food at home.


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