Tinfish curry plus

Ah the simple tin of Lucky Star pilchard that should be in everyone house and home.

I have so many fond memories of this tin of fish. I don’t ever remeber my granny using these pilchards to make fish curry, she opted for the route of using them to make fish cakes.

The joys of watching her gut these fish right down the middle, clean out the guts and then tease us with the spine bone. I remember standing on tip toes at her kitchen table watching and waiting for her to finish add her spices to her fish mixture, then add the recently squeezed bread that had been soaking on the sink in water and finally the egg. Then she would mix the mixture till it came together and break off a small piece to check the seasoning, she would always give me a piece to check with her, but seriously at my tender young age of 10, what did my palate know? All I knew was that we were eating something that was naughty and raw…now of course I know differently.

At home it was a different story all together, my mother this simple tin of pilchards and made tin fish curry with it, she was less traumatic meaning she never chased me around with the spine bone. Then she did the worst possible thing to me, she would add boiled eggs to her curry. At that stage in my life I disliked boiled eggs and fried eggs and well eggs in any form so as soon as she added those halved boiled eggs, I refused to eat the curry and even when I did it just didn’t taste the same, the fish tasted like it had egg on and I wolfed it down, thinking that the sooner I got it into my stomach the less time I would have to think about boiled eggs.

Then I grew up and how do I torment the next generation of Naidoo children? I tell them sago is fish eyes and they just look at me like I am the loony aunty that seriously needs to not be invited to the next family event.

Before my mother became a vegetarian, she fasted 5 out of 7 days a week and on those two days that she didn’t fast she would only want to egg roti with tin fish and boiled eggs curry. I really hated making it, the whole egg story still got to me, well it still gets to me. Now I just drink a huge sip of water with it and everything goes down and no funny eggy after taste.

Seeing as we are all lock down for dooms day and my dad stocked up on tin foods including tin fish, again not sure why, seeing as he is not a fan of the tinned fish, but nevertheless he stocked piled for the winter for us.

When I came across this recipe in Durban the 2 edition cookbook, I really felt like it should be something to try, it used very little ingredients, 100% of the ingredients were in the pantry and were easily accessible to those that didn’t have it. Okay maybe the one spice Ajmo. I tired googling it but it looks like fennel and it also looks like cumin seeds. To this day I have zero knowledge of what the difference between cumin and fennel seeds are all I know is that one is big jeera and one is small jeera, one is cumin and one is somph, both are needed to make sev and nuts and both are needed for vaddee. So I just winged it and added both cumin and fennel seeds and prayed that one of them was in fact ajmo.

The verdict, my mother said it looked delicious and that I had really out did myself, my dad of course had to be the party pooper and mention that I could have cooked it drier, but I love a good tin fish curry with lots of gravy because the best way to eat tin fish curry is with buttered bread and dab all that delicious gravy up.

I did add boiled eggs because the recipe original said one tin, but there were only 3 pieces of fish in their for a Saturday lunch and supper dish that was never going to work, so I doubled the tins and added some eggs to make it a more filling hearty meal.


  • 2 x big tins Pilchards in tomatoe sauce, cleaned and keep the gravy aside.
  • 2 x tbsp. olive oil.
  • ½ x tsp cumin seeds.
  • ½ x tsp fennel seeds.
  • ½ x tsp fenugreek seeds.
  • ½ x tsp mustard seeds.
  • 1 x onion, finely chopped.
  • 1 x tsp dried thyme.
  • A few curry leaves.
  • ½ x tbsp. ginger garlic paste.
  • 1 x tbsp. chilli powder.
  • ½ x tsp turmeric powder.
  • 1 x tin crushed tomatoes, liquidized.
  • Salt to taste.
  • Fresh coriander to garnish.
  • 3 x boiled eggs, halved.


  • Heat oil in a pot.
  • Add the seeds and allow them to roast for a few seconds.
  • Add the onion, curry leaves and salt and toss to mix.
  • Allow the onions to sauté till soft and transparent.
  • Add the tomatoes, cover and cook till the tomatoes have released all their water.
  • Add the spices and ginger garlic paste, give it a good stir.
  • Add about a cup of water, give it a good stir and allow to come to the boil.
  • Add the in the cleaned fish as well as the reserved gravy.
  • Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Add in the eggs and mix to coat the eggs.
  • Cover and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the gravy has thickened to your liking.
  • Garnish with the coriander.

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