Gefilte fish is mashed fish that is then cooked either by boiling or baking. It is a very well known Ashkenazi dish that hails from Eastern Europe, most notable from Poland. It is served with a strong horseradish sauce, known as chrein, which is tinged with raw beetroot. This is definitely an acquired taste, but for those who have had it, it becomes something of an obsession.
This dish is typically served on Friday nights and during Passover. It is a starter and is eaten cold. They can be presented as fish balls or as a loaf thickly sliced. Each slice or ball has a carrot slice on top.
In the UK, gefilte fish is typically made with carp. In South Africa, we use hake. In the UAE, I use hammour. I like to use local ingredients wherever I can.
Ingredients for gefilte fish:
1 kg hammour, minced in a meat grinder
2 onions, grated
2 large carrots, grated
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup - 1 cup matzo flour (can be replaced with breadcrumbs outside of Passover)
1 tablespoon of fish spice
Head, skin and bones of fish (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
2 carrots peeled and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
5 whole black peppercorns
5 whole spice berries
1 parsley stem
4 cups cold water
Prepare the stock mixture by placing all the ingredients in a pot and bring to the boil. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
Strain the soup and reserve the carrots for decoration.
While the broth is cooking, mix together the fish ingredients. The mixture should not be too wet. If necessary, add a little more breadcrumbs.
If making a loaf, press into a grated loaf pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes.
If making balls, then shape each ball and drop into the boiling strained soup stock and cook for approximately 1 hour. There must be plenty of water to cover the balls.
Cover the pot with the kid for the first half hour and then remove the lid and cook uncovered for the remaining half hour so that the liquid reduces.
Once the cooking time is over, allow the fish to cool . Transfer to a large serving platter and place a slice of carrot from the soup stock on each ball.
Serve with chrein on the side. This is the recipe I use for chrein.