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Seven Fishes Christmas Dish Recipe

2023 was a year for fantastic television, the likes of which — due to the SAG-AFTRA strike — may not grace our screens again for some time. Until then, I'll be rewatching one of my favourite television shows of the year, HBO's "The Bear": which is where I got the idea for this seven fishes Christmas dish.

Fellow fans of the show will never forget the central appearance of the seven fishes in the show's iconic, star-studded Christmas episode, which saw the likes of Jamie-Lee Curtis, Sarah Paulson, and John Mulaney engaged in a blistering family drama of Last Supper proportions.

What is the origin of the Feast of the Seven Fishes?

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American celebration that entails preparing and eating seven different seafood dishes on Christmas Eve. The celebration has its roots in the long Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from meat on certain days, where observant Catholics would eat fish instead. The specific number of fish dishes may come from the seven Sacraments of the Church, although the specific number of dishes varies from family to family.

This is why I have given myself (and you, the reader) extraordinary leniency in the volume of seafood that is actually present in the dish. In fact, this recipe should be called the "Seven(ish) Fishes Christ-mish Dish". Let's rename it.

Seven(ish) Christ-mish Fishes Dish Recipe

This recipe is a kind of sardine terrine styled after a recipe I saw from the American tinned fish company, Fishwife. Seeing as I was making this dish for one (I am the only avid tinned fish fan in the house), I used cookie cutters to consolidate the layers, though I would strongly recommend using a proper mold or a small cake tin ring for parties.

What you'll need from the shops:

  • Sardines of choice (my personal favourites are the smoked sardines from Woolworths or Alma brand, which can be found in some Spars)

  • Anchovies

  • Cream cheese

  • Panko breadcrumbs

  • Chives, dill, and parsley (or herbs of your choice)

  • Cucumber

  • Red onion

  • Olive oil

  • Lime

  • Flaky salt

Christmas table decorating idea:

To protect the table from Christmas messes and engage the whole family in some creative fun, cover the table with brown packing paper (it's usually available in large sheets or rolls from stationery stores or packing box distributors) and make some oil pastels or crayons available. You can, of course, flex your creative flair by pre-decorating the table in your own style.

How to prepare a seven fishes Christmas dish

Step One: Prep your fish

Debone your tinned fish and put the meat into a bowl to be mixed with other ingredients later. The layers of the terrine are going to go as such: fish, herbed cream cheese, cucumber salad, and crispy breadcrumbs. Keep this in mind when arranging your mixing bowls.

Reserve some of the flavoured oil from the tin for later!

Step Two: Prep your veggies

Finely chop the red onion, cucumber, and herbs of choice. Keep them separate for now so you can choose which herbs flavour the different layers later on.

Step Three: Layer one of the terrine (fish)

In a bowl, mix the prepared sardine meat, some red onion, chives, the juice of half a lime, and a very generous pinch of salt.

Incorporate it into a creamy mixture by mashing it with a fork.

It's not much to look at, but it is delicious. Remember to taste and adjust the seasoning as you go!

Step Two: Layer two of the terrine (cream cheese)

For this step, simply mix cream cheese, chopped dill, and salt.

Step Three: Layer three of the terrine (cucumber salad)

Toss your chopped cucumber, red onion, parsley, the juice and zest of the rest of the lime, and some olive oil into a bowl and mix.

Layer three of the terrine (crispy breadcrumbs)

Pour your reserved tinned fish oil into a pan and put it on medium heat. When that's warm, toss in your breadcrumbs.

When they start to toast, toss in two to four anchovy fillets and break them up with a fork or a pair of chopsticks.

Step Four: Assemble

Prepare your serving dish by placing your mold on top and get to layering! It goes like this: fish, cream cheese, cucumber salad, crispy breadcrumbs.

I got the order wrong on the mold to the left, so do me a favour and eliminate that from memory. This is what you should be looking at before you add your breadcrumbs.

And this is the final result! Simply remove the molds (gently) before serving with a side of crostini, crackers, or even potato chips.

See the layers? There are seven(ish) fishes in there!

Merry Fishmas, everyone

From the Life & Style family to yours, we wish you a restful holiday season filled with delightful meals shared over fine wine and beloved company. See you in the new year!


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