In Malawi, barbecued fish is served with nsima – a Malawian staple traditionally made from maize flour. It becomes quite firm after cooking and is traditionally served as a kind of large patty cake. Malawians generally eat with their hands so this texture makes it easy to break off bits.






Skill level

Average: 4.2 (11 votes)


For the fish

  • 1 whole 500-600 g fish (snapper or bream work well)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chilli sauce
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • small handful of coriander, roughly torn


  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1½ cups maize flour (see Note)
  • 25 g butter
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Ujeni ndiwo

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 2 cups of greens of your choice (spinach, kale, cabbage, mustard leaves, bean leaves all work well)
  • 1 small knob of ginger
  • edible flowers, to garnish (optional)
  • salt, to taste

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.


Marinating time 30 minutes to 2 hours

Place fish in deep oval dish and pour over chilli sauce, olive oil and lemon juice. Rub marinade in to both sides of the fish and cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours. 

30 minutes before you want to cook the fish, place four cups of vegetable stock in a saucepan and heat until lukewarm. Slowly sprinkle over the maize flour in ½ cup batches using a whisk to stir quickly to prevent lumps from forming. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens to a thick porridge-like consistency. Stir through butter, cover and set aside.

Once finished marinating, remove fish from fridge, place on large sheet of aluminum foil and pour over any excess marinade remaining in the dish. Wrap fish up in to a parcel making sure to fold up any edges upwards in order to keep the marinade locked in. Place foil parcel on the grill part of the barbecue on medium heat and cook for around 5-10 minutes each side with the hood down (this could vary slightly depending on your barbecue).

While fish is cooking place onions, ginger and oil in a deep pan or wok and cook until just softened (not limp). Add greens and pour over water, continuously stirring the mixture until water absorbed. Add chopped tomato and stir through until just heated. Salt to taste and garnish with edible flowers (optional).

Remove fish from barbecue, slide on serving platter being careful to keep the fish in tact and garnish with chopped coriander and fresh chilli. Serve immediately with sides.



• If you prefer a smoother texture, you could substitute the maize flour with polenta or mashed potato.


Recipe author Russell Hunter uses Nali chilli sauce (hot variety).