Friday, April 10, 2009

Gefilte fishing

I’ve never developed a taste for gefilte fish. It’s always looked so unappetising to me: anaemic slabs of cold reconstituted fish topped with skull caps of sliced cooked carrot, swimming in a sea of clear jelly. Eccchhh.

I only remember my mother making this delicacy once and I didn’t see her do it. But this year’s was our first Seder since my mother died so maybe I was trying to capture my inner matriarch.

Fortunately I had as my guide my friend Barry who is a professional chef.

We began at the Prahran market, where we bought 2 kilograms of mixed white fish, skinned and boned. (Some people add the skin and bones to the sauce, but we didn’t.)

For the sauce, Barry sliced 3 onions and 2 carrots into about 4 cups of water seasoned with 3 tablespoons of sugar and ½ teaspoon of white pepper. He brought that to the boil and then let it simmer.

Meanwhile, I minced the fish and added it to 3 raw eggs, 3 minced hard-boiled eggs, 3 white onions, salt, sugar and pepper. Lastly I poured in about ½ a cup of fine matzah meal. I sloshed all this around with my hands, adding more matzah meal until the mixture held together.

Barry said we had to taste it. I didn’t want to – it looked yucky – but it was actually pretty tasty. I didn’t want it too sweet so we added a little more salt and pepper.

We rolled the mixture into balls and lowered these gently into the sauce. But although we poured in more water we still thought there wasn’t enough to cover all those fish balls, so we hurriedly whipped up another saucepan of sauce.

These needed to simmer for one and a half to two hours so we walked down to The Tyranny of Distance for a cup of coffee while we waited.

When we returned we scooped the balls from the saucepans and arranged the cooked carrot slices onto their dear little heads. Then we strained the sauce.

I felt like a proper balabosta at the Seder when I announced that I had made the gefilte fish. And actually they were delicious, especially when served with horseradish. But I personally couldn’t come at the sauce. Too much like eating jellyfish. Eccchhh.


  1. I think Eccchhh too. So I'll stay with the matzah balls from your previous post, Writerbee, thanks all the same. This notwithstanding, anyone who can turn the process of making gefilte fish into an interesting story - like you have done - sure can write. xx

  2. I forgot to mention that when I click on each of your photographs, it fills my entire screen. Which is great, especially for the first one in this post which is a bit hard to see in its posted size. xx