• Tilapla with ugali and silverbeet (China Squirrel)Source: China Squirrel

This recipe was given to me from my mother-in-law when I got married. Her son loves it, so I wanted to get it right for him. The fish is marinated in ginger, garlic, peri peri paste and Moroccan spice. 






Skill level

Average: 4.6 (7 votes)


  • 1 medium tilapia (or bream), gutted and cleaned
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 5 cm piece ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 red capsicum, roughly chopped
  • 1-1.5 litres sunflower oil, for deep-frying
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • 2 red onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp Moroccan spice
  • 1 tbsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 6 tomatoes, grated
  • 500 ml (2 cups) coconut cream
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves



  • 500 ml (2 cups) water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1½ cups maize meal
  • ½ lemon, rind finely grated
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp butter



  • 1 tbsp sunflower cooking oil
  • ½ red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp vegetable stock powder
  • 10-14 silverbeet (Swiss chard) stalks removed, leaves thinly sliced
  • 50 ml coconut cream

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Make 4 cuts on both sides of the fish, then rub salt and pepper all over, including the insides. Stuff the inside of the fish with 2 cloves of thinly sliced garlic and 5 thin slices of ginger.

Rub the lemon juice all over the fish, including the insides.

Blend the remaining garlic cloves and ginger with the capsicum to make a paste.

Rub half of the paste all over the fish and refrigerate until ready to fry.

Heat the oil in a large deep-sided saucepan over medium heat. Roll the marinated fish in the flour and shake off the excess. When the oil is hot, deep-fry the fish on 4 minutes each side, turning occasionally, or until cooked through. Remove and drain on paper towel.

Heat some oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat, add the onion and cook until softened. Add the remaining capsicum paste, the spices and tomato paste and mix well. Add the grated tomato and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the coconut cream and coriander and simmer for 8 minutes. Keep warm.

For the pap, bring the water to boil in a large saucepan, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the salt and 1 cup of the maize meal, and stir until combined and thickened. Increase the heat to high and slowly add the remaining maize meal while vigorously mashing the mixture for 6-8 minutes. The mixture should look like smooth mashed potato. Add the lemon rind, juice and butter and mix well, making sure the are no lumps. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm, stirring occasionally so it remains smooth until ready to serve.

For the silverbeet, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, add the onion and stock powder and cook until softened. Add the silverbeet and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the coconut cream and simmer for 8 minutes.

Serve the fish with the sauce poured over, with the pap and silverbeet on the side.


Cook’s notes

• Maize meal is coarsely ground white corn (similar to Italian polenta, which is ground yellow corn), available online, and from African and specialist grocers. I prefer to use Iwisa brand. 


Photography, styling and food preparation by China Squirrel

(Plates from Stem.) 


This recipe is from The Chefs' Line - a brand new series airing weeknights at 6pm on SBS. Can the passion of a home cook beat the skills of a professional chef? Missed all the action? Catch-up online and get all the recipes #TheChefsLine.