Lauraine Jacobs

Food Writer and Author of Delicious Books


28 December 2018


I love the process of making pickled fish, by frying oily fish fillets and then bathing them in an aromatic brine flavoured with vegetables and spices. This sweet and sour fish dish is called escabeche, a well-loved recipe in Mediterranean and South American cuisines.

  • 600g filleted fish, skin on (mullet, kahawai, gurnard etc)
  • 2 tsps salt

For the pickling brine:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp coriander seeds
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs thyme

For frying the fish:

  • 4 tbsps olive oil
  • Flour for dusting

Season the fish fillets with salt and leave to sit while you make the pickling brine. In a deep frying pan or heavy saucepan, heat one tablespoon of oil. Add the onion, garlic and celery and cook over a very gentle heat until the vegetables are tender and soft. Add the water, vinegar, sugar and salt with all the herbs and spices. Bring this mixture to a boil, turn off the heat and let cool.

Heat the 4 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Dredge the fish fillets in flour, shake off the excess and fry the fish in hot oil until browned on both sides. Remove the fish onto kitchen paper to drain and cool.

Once the fish and the brine are cool, place the fish in a glass or ceramic container, pour the brine over and leave to absorb the flavours for an hour or two. Refrigerate until needed and serve at room temperature with toast and butter.

The fish will keep for a week if refrigerated.

Serves 4 as an entrée or as a snack Wine match: a dry sherry or an icy cold lager