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RECIPE | Michael Olivier’s kerrievis (pickled fish)

Michael Olivier shares a delicious kerrievis recipe from his new SA cookbook, “Friends. Food. Flavour”.

27 January 2022 - 09:15
Michael Olivier's kerrievis (pickled fish).
Michael Olivier's kerrievis (pickled fish).
Image: Supplied

Friends. Food. Flavour is essentially a celebration of Cape dishes. It is the culmination of sorts of dishes SA restaurateur, foodie and wine expert Michael Olivier was asked to put together for a SA Cape buffet on the Voyager Wine Estate in 2000.

Together with his wife Madeleine, he researched, tweaked and put together a selection of recipes now presented in this new cookbook together with a few additions from the kitchens of friends.

One of the dishes most unique to the Cape is kerrievis, or pickled fish. Of this dish, Olivier writes: “Few Cape homes would be without their own recipe for kerrievis, as pickling was a popular way of preserving fish in the days before refrigerators.

“Pickled fish is often served with a little salad as a first course, but when served as a main course it is accompanied by a salad of potato and some dressed lettuce leaves. Good Friday seems to be the most popular day on which this dish is served.”

SA restaurateur, foodie and wine expert Michael Olivier has brought out a new South African cookbook, "Michael Olivier's Friends. Food. Flavour."
SA restaurateur, foodie and wine expert Michael Olivier has brought out a new South African cookbook, "Michael Olivier's Friends. Food. Flavour."
Image: Supplied


Makes: 6 as a main course or 10 as a starter


2kg filleted fish, all bones removed and cut into squares of about 6cm

Seasoned flour

125ml vegetable oil


4 large onions, halved and then thickly sliced

70ml vegetable oil

45ml aromatic mild curry powder

5ml turmeric

5ml paprika

5ml ground coriander

15ml whole allspice

125g light brown sugar

15ml peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger or galangal

15ml finely chopped seeded chilli

3 bay leaves, cut in strips with scissors

10ml sea salt

500ml white wine vinegar

250ml water

3 fresh bay or lemon leaves


  1. Cook the fish two days ahead of requiring the dish. Pat the fish dry and dip into the seasoned flour. Fry in batches in the hot oil for about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through. As the fillets are cooked, remove and drain on kitchen paper and allow to cool. If desired, the fish can be brushed with oil and baked in an oven preheated to 180°C for about 25 minutes.
  2. To prepare the pickle, fry the onions gently in the vegetable oil until they are transparent but have not lost their crunch. Add the curry powder, turmeric, paprika and coriander. Fry over gentle heat for a short while to release the aromatic oils from the spices.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, except the vinegar, water and fresh bay or lemon leaves, and cook gently for 2 minutes. Pour over the vinegar and water gently to prevent splashing. Bring to the boil over high heat, then turn down the heat and simmer the pickle for 10 minutes.
  4. Assemble the dish by pouring a little of the pickle into a glass or ceramic dish. Place a single layer of the fish on top and cover that with pickle. Build up layers of fish and pickle, ending with a layer of pickle. Place the fresh bay or lemon leaves on top. Cover loosely and allow to cool completely. When cold, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two days.

Tip: Serve the pickled fish with the marinated onions and a little bit of the sauce with chilled Red Muscadel.


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