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Recipe: How to Make Pickled Fish, the Luke Dale Roberts Way

This Cape Malay-inspired seafood dish is for serious home cooks who enjoy a challenge

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By Kimberley Schoeman  | November 28, 2023 | Recipes

This delicious recipe for Pickled Fish can be found in The Test Kitchen Cookbook by Chef Luke Dale Roberts, who has been known to push the boundaries of the fine dining restaurant scene since opening The Test Kitchen back in 2010 in Cape Town.

Throughout his career, across critically acclaimed restaurants and earning a string of global awards, Luke has always let his food do the talking, and now it was time to celebrate those marvellous recipes on paper. The Test Kitchen Cookbook is a 520-page hardcover masterpiece that showcases a variety of The Test Kitchen recipes that helped cement Cape Town’s reputation as a fine dining culinary capital. Luke unpacks the founding of the iconic Test Kitchen, his personal culinary journey and the inspiration he has had behind many of these beautiful dishes. If you’ve been following this chef for a while, it is easy to fall in love with his cooking style, his sheer passion for what he does and the details behind every dish.

Here’s how to Make Pickled Fish with black bean purée, pickled carrot, curry dressing, ras el hanout pecan honeycomb (Serves 4–6)

“This is my version of Cape Malay–style curried pickled fish. I added a black bean purée to give it a slight Mexican twist. It’s also a nod to the humble carrot, which pairs perfectly with the raw tuna,” writes Chef Luke Dale Roberts.

Ingredients for the Pickled Fish

100g tuna fillet

50ml fish sauce

50ml lime juice

Pickled Carrot

4 baby carrots, peeled

7.5ml coriander seeds

75ml white wine vinegar

50ml water

35ml white wine

25ml honey

5g ginger, chopped

Ingredients for the Black Bean Purée

200g black beans

1 green pepper

15ml cumin seeds

5ml cardamom seeds

5ml coriander seeds

2.5ml fennel seeds

1 bay leaf

1 onion, brunoised

1 stick celery, chopped

splash of canola oil

red wine vinegar to taste

salt to taste

Ingredients for the Curry Dressing

30ml mixed spice

25ml sherry vinegar

15ml honey

10ml soy sauce

315ml olive oil

7.5ml wholegrain mustard

Ingredients for the Ras El Hanout Pecan Honeycomb

75g pecan nuts

7ml ras el hanout

60g brown sugar

15ml honey

2.5ml bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

Ingredients for the Braaied Carrot

4–6 whole baby rainbow carrots, peeled and tops attached

Carrot Nest

2 large carrots, peeled

15ml cornflour

Assembly

10–15 turnip leaves

50g homemade crème fraiche (see p. 474)

coriander shoots for garnishing

Specialist Equipment

blender, drum sieve, piping bag, two squeezy bottles, braai/barbecue, deep-fryer, gravity/mandoline slicer, cake turntable

To Make the Pickled Fish

​Thinly slice the tuna against the grain into sashimi (about 5mm thick). Lay them on a tray, cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge.

​Mix the fish sauce and lime juice. Just before service, dress the tuna and allow it to lightly pickle in the juices for three minutes.

To Make the Pickled Carrot

​Using a peeler, slice the carrots lengthways into ribbons and place into a bowl.

​Toast the coriander seeds in a pot and then add the wine vinegar, water, wine, honey and ginger. Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer for a few minutes to cook out the alcohol.

​Pour the hot pickling liquid over the carrot ribbons and place in the fridge to cool.

To Make the Black Bean Purée

​Soak the black beans overnight in a bowl of water.

​Char the green pepper over an open flame. Place into a bowl, wrap with clingfilm and allow to cool and sweat. Peel, deseed and chop up the pepper.

​Gently toast the spices in a pan over medium heat.

​Add the onion and celery with a splash of canola oil and allow to sweat with the spices.

​Drain off the liquid from the soaking black beans and add them to the pan along with the green pepper. Add enough water to cover the beans, top with a cartouche and cook over medium heat for about one hour or until the beans are completely soft. Top up the water during cooking if necessary.

​When the beans are cooked and the liquid has reduced, remove the bay leaf and transfer the mixture to a blender. Blend until smooth.

​Pass the purée through a drum sieve and season with red wine vinegar and salt to taste. Place into a piping bag.

To Make the Curry Dressing

​Toast the mixed spice in a dry pan.

​Blend the sherry vinegar, honey, soy sauce and toasted mixed spice in a blender. With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil to emulsify the dressing.

​Finally, stir in the wholegrain mustard and store in a squeezy bottle.

To Make the Ras El Hanout Pecan Honeycomb

​Heat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

​Spread the pecan nuts and ras el hanout on the lined tray and toast in the oven for four minutes.

​Add the sugar and honey to a pot, stir through a little water and place over medium heat. Allow the sugar to melt to a golden syrup. When the caramel turns an amber colour (or reaches 130°C), remove from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda and salt.

​Use a whisk to incorporate the bicarb but avoid over-whisking – the carbon dioxide released by the bicarb forms air pockets in the honeycomb. Over-whisking will result in a denser honeycomb. Whisk with no more than three stirring motions.

​Once the bicarb has been incorporated, the caramel will begin to increase in volume and foam. Pour it over the toasted nuts and spice on the tray.

​Leave the honeycomb to cool completely and harden, then chop roughly.

To Make the Braaied Carrot

​Prepare a braai or barbecue with hot coals. Braai the rainbow carrots until tender. Allow to cool.

Carrot Nest

​Set a deep-fryer to 160°C.

​Very finely slice the carrots lengthways on a gravity or mandoline slicer, then chiffonade. Place into a bowl and dust with the cornflour.

​Shake off any excess cornflour and deep-fry the carrots until crisp. Transfer to a tray lined with paper towel to drain. While still hot, create a nest with the carrots. Just before service, portion the nest into 5cm squares.

Assembly

​In the same deep-fryer, flash fry the turnip leaves until crisp, transparent and bright green. Drain on paper towel.

​Place the crème fraiche into a squeezy bottle.

​Place a plate onto a cake turntable. Spin the turntable and, starting at the centre, draw a line of crème fraiche straight down to create a spiral.

​Pipe three 5ml dots of black bean purée on and around the crème fraiche. Place a piece of pickled tuna on each.

​Pipe several dots of curry dressing around the crème fraiche and on top of the tuna.

​Scatter five small pieces of ras el hanout pecan honeycomb around the plate.

​Lay two pickled carrot ribbons on each piece of tuna, folding them to create a wave-like shape.

​Lean a braaied carrot against the tuna so that it’s propped up.

​Garnish the dish with a portion of carrot nest, coriander shoots and crisp turnip leaves.