Fish and Coconut Pilau

Servings : Serves 4-5

Being an Island girl, fish and coconut have always been a strong part of my most favoured meals. Combining the two in this glorious dish elevates a regular pilau into the kind of meal fit for super special occasions!


  • 1 kg fish on the bone, sliced and cleaned (or 500gm boneless fish fillets)
  • 3 cups basmati rice
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 cups water (or as needed)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp margarine or butter
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1 inch thick slices (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole black pepper
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cardamom
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1-2 chillies, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • salt to taste
  • chopped coriander for garnishing


Mix a teaspoon each of chilli powder and salt, then add enough lemon juice to form a paste. Apply this on the fish pieces and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Wash, rinse out and then soak the rice for about 20-30 minutes.

Put a deep pan on the heat, add the quarter cup of oil and once hot, add the fish pieces. Fry them on both sides until golden, then remove them onto a plate and keep them covered.

If you have trouble with fish sticking to your regular pan when frying, you can opt to do this in a non-stick pan. Just remember to measure out a quarter cup of oil and then use whatever is left over for the cooking of the pilau.

Add the butter or margarine to what is left of the oil, once heated through add the cumin seeds, whole black pepper, cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamom. Allow them to begin to splutter, then add the chopped onions and fry until golden. Next, add the ginger and garlic pastes, stir them in and add the chopped chillies, powdered spices and the potato slices. Stir until everything is mixed and well coated. Then add the coconut milk and water.

I normally use 1 and a quarter cups of liquid per cup of rice for most of my recipes. For this recipe I use an extra quarter cup over the total liquid amount. You may need to adjust this amout to suit your particular brand of rice.

Sprinkle salt and stir, and give it a taste. You need to be able to taste the salt in the liquid, remember that once the rice goes in, that will need salt too. So try and add a little more than what you feel is just right so that the flavour balances out once the rice goes in.

Once the liquid comes to a boil, drain the soaked rice and add it in. Give everything a stir and allow to simmer for a bit. Then turn the heat down to medium and give everything an occasional stir.

When the liquid begins to diminish, add the fried fish slices and gently stir them in. Lower the heat completely, level out the rice and then seal your pan by using a tight lid or wetting a kitchen towel and placing it over the pan then placing a lid on top of it. Allow to steam on very low heat for about 15 minutes. Switch off and serve. Garnish with some fresh chopped coriander and lemon/lime slices. Serve with kachumbar.

Enjoy! 🙂

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