Cosmo, are you sure lobster is Kosher?

Hemingway's timeless classic about perseverance

Like I said, you get boiled shrimp, grilled shrimp...

One cuckoo flew over the rest

The long & winding road nears its end

Coquilles St-Jacques: the Pilgrim's Mussel

“I picked up scallop shells in diverse colours and sizes, and reflected on the diversity of God’s creation, and what might be the use and meaning of his making so many varieties of a single thing. If he created scallops simply for our nourishment, why paint each shell with delicate and particular colors? And why, indeed, trouble making so many different things to nourish us, when in the Bible we read that a simple manna fed the Hebrews day following day? It came to me then that God must desire us to use each of our senses, to take delight in the varied tastes and sights and textures of his world.” – Geraldine Brooks.

 

The scallop shell is the most iconic symbols of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, the North-Western extremity of Spain. Nowadays it is used, along with a yellow arrow, to guide pilgrims heading to Santiago via many different routes. There are many legends and myths about the ancient link between the scallop shell and the “Camino de San Tiago” (St James’ Way). It is no coincidence that in French the scallop is called Coquille Saint Jacques, while in German scallops are called “Jakobsmuscheln” (James’ mussels).

The scallop shell is said to be a metaphor, its lines representing the different routes pilgrims travel from all over Europe; all walking trails leading to one point: the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. Medieval pilgrims often wore a scallop shell attached to their cloaks or hats during their journey to Santiago. More than being just a symbol or a pilgrim badge, the scallop shells also had a practical purpose: they were a handy and light replacement for a bowl so the pilgrims could use them to hold their food and drink on their long journey. Pilgrims would also be given food at churches and other establishments, and a scallop shell scoop was the measure for the food they would be receiving. Since the scallop is native to the coast of Galicia, the shell also became a memento, a physical proof of having completed the pilgrimage to Santiago as well as a popular souvenir and source of business for the shops near the Cathedral in Santiago.

There are also accounts about the scallop shell believed to have a much earlier origin, dating to pre-Christian times. It is understood that walking the Camino had once been a kind of fertility pilgrimage, taken by couples desperate to have children. The scallop shell might therefore have been an ancient pagan symbol of fertility. The shape of the scallop shell also resembles the setting sun, which would have been an important daily event, full of symbolism in pre-Christian societies. It is probably not a mere coincidence that the Camino is a journey to the West, finishing at Finisterra (from the Latin Finis Terrae: “the end of the world”) and the setting sun.

Scallops are also extremely tasty, which makes them of use to me as a Protestant as well. Probably the best-known way of serving them is the classic French dish called Coquilles St.-Jacques à la Parisienne. It makes for a beautiful entree that goes exceedingly well with a green salad, flinty white wine and good conversation. It can be made the day before serving and heated through in an oven while guests gather. While you could make it in a casserole, but I believe little gratin dishes or ramekins work better.

 

Preparation time: 90 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled, unwooded Chardonnay

 

1Kg sea scallops, cleaned and quartered

400g Button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

150g Gruyère cheese, grated

3 Large shallots, peeled and diced

8 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 ½ Cups seafood stock

1 ½ Cups fresh bread crumbs

1 Cup double cream

¼ Cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

¼ Cup brandy

¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ Cup bread flour

¼ Tsp. mild curry powder

 Coarse sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

 

  • Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • When it foams, add the flour, and cook for approximately 4 minutes, whisking constantly.
  • Add the stock, and whisk again, until the mixture is smooth and thick.
  • Add the cream, curry powder, 1 ½ Tsp. salt and ½ Tsp. pepper and stir in.
  • Bring the sauce barely to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan set over medium heat.
  • When the butter begins to foam, add the shallots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are clear and tender, approximately 5 minutes.
  • Add the sliced mushrooms, and cook for 8 - 10 minutes, until they have released their liquid and are just starting to brown.
  • Add the brandy and cook for 1 - 2 minutes, until the alcohol has mostly evaporated.
  • Add 1 Tsp. salt and ½ Tsp. pepper, and stir again to combine.
  • Add mushroom mixture to the cream sauce, and set aside.
  • Combine the bread crumbs, parsley and Gruyère in a large bowl, stir to combine, then moisten the mixture with the olive oil, stirring again to combine.
  • Use the remaining tablespoon of butter to grease 6 medium (1 ½ cup) gratin dishes.
  • Divide the scallops evenly among them and top with equal amounts of the cream and mushroom sauce.
  • Top each gratin dish with a handful or two of the bread-crumb mixture.
  • Cover the dishes with foil and refrigerate for an hour.
  • When ready to cook, pre-heat your oven to 200⁰C.
  • Remove the foil from the dishes and arrange them on a baking tray.
  • Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned and bubbling.
  • Serve hot, with plenty of crusty baguette on the side.

 

“Give my scallop-shell of quiet, my staff of faith to walk upon, my scrip of joy, immortal diet, my bottle of salvation, my gown of glory, hope's true gage; and thus I'll take my pilgrimage.” – Sir Walter Raleigh.

 

 

Braaied Salmon: let the ingredients speak for themselves

“Salmon. Salmon, salmon, salmon, salmon. I eat so much salmon at these weddings, twice a year I get this urge to swim upstream.” – David Nicholls.

 

I have often stated that really good ingredients should be cooked with as little fuss as possible. This certainly applies to salmon. To me, the best ways of serving this noble fish is to grill or braai it, smoke it or poach it. The cut you use will determine which method should be used. With salmon, one size does not fit all. There are a few basic categories of cuts, each with its own treatment and purpose. Small fillets and steaks are great for fast weeknight meals, while a whole side of salmon is an easy and elegant main course for a dinner party. Salmon fillets are the most commonly used cut of the fish, and for good reason: removing the pin bones is simple, and the cut lends itself to all methods of cooking. A fillet can be a small section of a deboned side, intended to serve one or two people, or it or an entire boned side to serve a crowd.

With or without skin? That depends on how you expect to cook the fish. Certain methods, like pan-frying fillets, are designed to give you crispy skin, and that skin is delicious. For poaching fish, however, the skin can be removed before cooking and discarded. For filleted, skinless fish, about 200g per person is an adequate portion. With skin, add another 30 – 40g.

On your stove hob, there are two excellent ways of cooking salmon; sautéing and poaching. Sautéing salmon means cooking it quickly in a little fat over fairly high heat. The method is easy and fast, and it works best for fillets, making it a great way to get a delicious weeknight dinner on the table. Poaching salmon gives you cleanly cooked fish that makes a beautiful palette for sauces, or a delicious base for salmon salad, croquettes or burgers. It’s also a good way to get perfectly cooked fish without any added fat. For a really special occasion, there is nothing like cooking it on your braai. This is an earthy, simple way to cook the fish and gives it a particularly smoky, deep flavour. A perfectly grilled piece of salmon is a wonderful treat. And the method even works for whole salmon, if you have a large enough grid.

 

Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Colombard or Chenin Blanc

 

4 Salmon fillet cuts, each around 250g, skin on

3 Garlic cloves, crushed

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

3 Tsp. Cajun seasoning

1 Tsp. salt

1 Tsp. white pepper

 

  • Light a charcoal fire in your braai.
  • Mix all the marinade ingredients and pour over the salmon. Marinate for 1 hour.
  • By now the coals will be ready; medium hot.
  • Place the fillets in a greased hinged grid and braai them about 300mm above the coals.
  • To make sure the heat is just right, hold the palm of one of your hands directly above the grid and count to 10. If the heat becomes unbearable before you reach 10, your fire is still too hot.
  • Cook the fillets for 3 - 4 minutes on each side, skin side first.
  • Serve with lemon wedges and savoury rice or parsley potatoes.

 

“I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul... we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.” – Neil Armstrong.

 

Prawn Kung Pao: one of the jewels of Sichuan cuisine

“Scientists have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is life after death -- though they say it's virtually impossible to get decent Chinese food.” – David Letterman.

 

Sichuan (also known as Szechwan or Szechuan) Province in South-West China is famous far beyond that country’s borders for its fabulous cuisine. Its food has bold flavours, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chilli, as well as the unique flavour of Sichuan pepper. UNESCO declared its capital Chengdu as a city of gastronomy in 2011 in order to recognise the sophistication of its cooking. According to an old Chinese proverb, “when you go to Beijing, you see what low rank you hold. When you travel to Canton, you realise how little money you've got. But when you come to Chengdu, you find out how large your appetite is.”

Sichuan is colloquially known as the "heavenly country" due to its abundance of food and natural resources. The complex topography of Sichuan including mountains, hills, plains, plateaus, and basin has enriched the cuisine of Sichuan with versatile and distinct ingredients. Most Sichuan dishes are spicy, although a typical meal includes non-spicy dishes to cool the palate. Sichuan cuisine is composed of seven basic flavours: sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic, and salty. Milder versions of Sichuan dishes remain staples of the “Chinese” food served in Western countries.

The key ingredients of most Sichuan dishes include rice, beans and vegetables from the fertile Sichuan Basin, herbs and mushrooms from the highlands, pork (the predominant meat), beef, chicken, prawns, rabbit and yoghurt (which probably arrived from India or Tibet in medieval times). Sichuan cuisine often contains food preserved through pickling, salting and drying. The most important spice in Sichuan cuisine is Sichuan pepper or "flower pepper") which has an intense citrus-like flavour and produces a tingly-numbing sensation in the mouth. Other commonly used seasonings are broad bean chilli paste, garlic, chilli, ginger and star anise. The most famous of them all, however, is kung pao paste which is at the heart of the most famous Sichuan dish - Kung Pao Chicken. It was first used only in the famous chicken dish, but later introduced to many other recipes, including the one I am sharing with you, Prawn Kung Pao, with its slightly sweet and spicy taste.

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 2

Tastes best accompanied by a Viognier or Sylvaner

 

For the prawns:

12 King-sized prawns, headless, peeled and deveined

6 Dried Serrano or Bird’s Eye chilies

4 Scallion stalks, white parts only

1 Small onion, quartered

1 Piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

½ Green bell pepper, cut into small pieces

¼ Cup roasted peanuts

2 Tbsp. sunflower or canola oil

For the Kung Pao Sauce:

4 Tbsp. water

2 Tbsp. soya sauce

2 Tbsp. sweet soya sauce; I use Ketjap Manis

½ Tsp. Maizena corn starch

½ Tsp. sesame oil

½ Tsp. rice or cider vinegar

½ Tsp. brown sugar

½ Tsp. white pepper

 

  • Mix all the sauce ingredients and set aside.
  • Heat a wok over high heat and add the cooking oil. Heat until the oil is shimmering hot.
  • Add the ginger and stir quickly.
  • Add the onion, green pepper, and dried red chilies. Stir-fry until the spicy aromas from the dried red chilies are released.
  • Add the prawns and roasted peanuts while keeping on stirring.
  • When the prawns are nearly done, add the sauce and keep stirring until the sauce thickens.
  • Add the chopped scallions, stir again and dish up.
  • Serve with noodles or egg fried rice.

 

“Chinese food tries to engage the mind, not just the palate. To provoke the intellect.” - Nicole Mones.

 

Tuna Kebabs Valencia: the most wholesome sosaties ever

“It was a revolution, but now it is an evolution. People know more ingredients, people know more techniques, and people look for more ingredients they've never looked for before. In the '80s, you couldn't find raw tuna in any restaurant that wasn't Japanese. Now, you can't find any restaurant without it.” – Wolfgang Puck.

 

Yellowfin tuna are the blindside flankers of the ocean. They combine speed, size, brute strength and stamina in a way that makes them feared opponents. I have experienced the “deep burn” that overcomes your arms and shoulders after a long tussle with these bruisers, and I can honestly say that I regard marlin and sailfish as less daunting quarries than a yellowfin of 40 kilos plus. The tuna fights doggedly, because unlike most other fish, it is warm-blooded, and its warm muscles makes it an extremely strong swimmer, capable of reaching speeds of up to 80 km per hour. Tunas also conserve their stamina by not jumping or “tail walking” like billfish.

The Yellow tuna is a popular sport fish in many parts of their range and are prized for their speed and strength when fought on rod and reel. Sport fishermen also prize it for its culinary qualities. Most of the commercial catch used to be canned, but the growing popularity of sushi and sashimi has resulted in huge demand for high-quality fish. Tuna long liners target larger sashimi-grade fish of 25 kg and more that swim deeper in the water column. Large yellowfin is also becoming a popular replacement for the severely depleted stocks of bluefin tuna.

Tuna are actually far more versatile table fish than most people realise. They are extremely tasty fish, provided they aren’t overcooked. The following recipe brings out the best in these magnificent creatures, and affords the man of the house another opportunity to braai!

 

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled dry Rosé

 

700g Tuna steaks, cut into 3cm³ cubes

1 Pineapple, peeled and cut into 3cm³ cubes

12 Pieces red bell pepper, 3cm²

12 Pieces red onion, 3cm²

5 Garlic cloves, chopped

3 Tbsp. soya sauce

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped

1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. lemon zest, grated

1 Tbsp. fresh orange juice

2 Tsp. orange zest, grated

2 Tsp. honey

1 Tsp. fresh ginger, grated plus another 1 Tsp. extra

½ Tsp. salt

¼ Tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

4 Metal skewers, each at least 25cm long

 

  • Light a charcoal fire in your braai.
  • Combine all the ingredients except the tuna, bell pepper, pineapple, onion and skewers in a large zip-top plastic bag.
  • Add the fish and seal the bag.
  • Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning once.
  • Meanwhile heat a dash of cooking oil to a fireproof pan and fry the pineapple with the extra ginger until the pineapple starts caramelising.
  • Remove from the heat, allow to cool and then start putting the kebabs together. 
  • Skewer a cube of tuna, a piece of onion, a slice of pineapple and a piece of bell pepper onto a kebab stick and repeat. Do not overcrowd the kebab.
  • Braai the kebabs about 300mm above moderate coals. To make sure the heat is just right, hold the palm of one of your hands directly above the grid and count to 10. If the heat becomes unbearable before you reach 10, your fire is still too hot.
  • Cook the fish until caramelised, about 5 minutes per side.
  • Serve with lemon wedges and parsley potatoes.

 

“It's as if Japanese men have built themselves the most beautiful of prisons for their rampaging ids. Instead of indulging their fantasies, they focus on food, or landscaping, or the perfect cup of tea -- or a single slab of o-toro tuna -- letting themselves go only at baseball games and office parties.” – Anthony Bourdain.

 

Grilled Crayfish Tails with Lemon Butter Sauce

“When the fish aren’t biting, even a crayfish is fish.” – Russian proverb.

 

Crayfish or rock lobsters (or spiny lobsters as they are called in some parts of the world) are among the most highly prized – and priced – crustaceans around. Salt water crayfish resembleoutsized prawns, as they lack the prominent pincers of lobsters, langoustines and crawfish. There are four well-known species: the Mediterranean “Spiny Lobster”, the Cape “Rock Lobster”, the smallish South African “East Coast lobster” and the huge Indo-Pacific “Blue Crayfish” often found on fish markets in Mozambique.

The two species endemic to the coastal waters of South Africa are Jasus lalandi, which occurs mainly in the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean, while Palinurus homarus is found in the warmer waters of KwaZulu-Natal and along the Wild Coast. Jasus lalandi are larger and more abundant than their east coast cousins and, as a result, they support an important commercial fishery. West Coast rock lobster may grow to a total length of 46 cm, with a carapace length of 18 cm.

The firm, sweet flesh of the Kreef (crayfish) is one of South Africa’s true culinary treasures, yet until fairly recently it was not held in particularly high esteem by the burgers of the Cape. As Dr CF (Louis) Leipoldt remarked in one of his “Polfyntjies vir die Proe” essays, “… the taste of crayfish was not popular in days gone by – certainly not among the White population. “Boere people” never really liked it, and in my grandmother’s recipe book (which contained numerous sea food recipes) not a word is said about crayfish.” I have been told reliably that when Boland farmers camped by the seaside over the Festive Season, they ate fish and Klipkous (perlemoen) while their servants caught and ate crayfish. 

Since those days, crayfish has come to be regarded as the delicacy it is, and modern freezing and transportation techniques have made it far more widely available. One drawback of frozen crayfish is that the delectable flesh in the legs and carapace dries out, and one is left with only the tail meat. The following recipe is ideal for this state of affairs, and it is both delicious and simple to make.

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves 2 (or 4 as a starter)

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc

 

4 Crayfish tails, about 200g each

4 Garlic cloves, crushed

1 Lemon, thinly sliced

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, half for the sauce and half for dotting the tails

1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil

1 ½ Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley, very finely chopped plus extra for garnish

1 Tsp. Dijon mustard

½ Tsp. salt

¼ Tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Cut lengthwise through the top shell of each crayfish tail with kitchen scissors, stopping at the base of the tail and snipping through the top portion of the meat as you go.
  • Flip the tail on its back and crack the ribs in the middle. This will help open the shell.
  • Open the shell using your thumbs and fingers and loosen the meat from the shell (remove the intestine if present). Work carefully – the shells are sharp! 
  • Lift the meat from the shell, keeping it attached at the base. Press the shell together and set the crayfish meat over the top. The bulk of the crayfish meat should be sitting over the top of the shell.
  • Place your oven rack in the middle of the oven so that when you bake, the meaty tops of your crayfish tails will be at least 15cm from the top heating elements. Preheat the grill.
  • Mix the marinade ingredients (parsley, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice in a bowl. Stir vigorously to combine.
  • Arrange the butterflied crayfish tails on their bellies in a roasting pan.
  • Spoon the marinade evenly over the tops of each crayfish tail.
  • Divide 2 Tbsp. of the butter into tiny pieces. Dot each tail all over with bits of butter.
  • Grill the crayfish tails until the flesh turns white and the shells red, about 10 – 12 minutes.
  • Transfer the tails to a serving platter and keep warm.
  • Finish by making the garlic lemon butter. : drain the drippings from the roasting pan into a small saucepan and combine with the remaining 2 Tbsp. butter.
  • Bring to a simmer and remove from the heat.
  • Divide the mixture between small ramekins to use as dipping sauce.
  • Serve with lemon slices on the side.

 

“Through his pierced brain the breezes sang Will you drop dead you pig of a sell-out But from the sky as black as the forehead of his fathers no crayfish came to the aid of his lobsters." - Benjamin Péret.

 

Massachusetts State House: in Cod we trust

A poor boy biting off more than he can chew

Run, Sardine, run!

Let's rename Crab Yangon Crab Rangoon

A giant Varkbek (in front)

Herb-roasted Steenbras: fast food - very fast!

“Anyone lucky enough to have caught large white steenbras, will understand the power of these fish. They thrive in shallow surf zones where the water is crashing and ripping, a habitat that would send any self-respecting fish back to the calm of a reef.” – Craig Bertram Smith.

 

The White Steenbras (Lithognatus lithognatus) or “Varkbek” is the thoroughbred of Southern Cape beaches and estuaries. When hooked, it sets off on blistering runs that can total hundreds of metres in the case of large specimens. It roams shallow surf and estuaries, where they seek out organisms such as cracker prawns, blood worms, small crabs and baby clams. They can at times be seen “tailing” in estuaries, in water so shallow that their tails protrude from the water while they feed head down.

It is their reliance on estuaries which has largely led to the decline in White Steenbras numbers over the last 50 years. Not only can they be caught more easily in still waters, but the degradation of our estuarine systems via pollution, irresponsible construction, silting up and water extraction has made life tough for these beautiful fish. Fortunately the largely undeveloped Transkei Wild Coast provides a number of safe havens for mature fish that congregate prior to spawning in late winter.

The White Steenbras is immensely popular with Western and Southern Cape anglers. It can grow as big as 30kg, fights to the death and is extremely tasty. It has white, flaky flesh which stays delicate regardless of size or age. Younger fish are at their best baked whole, while larger specimens can be fried, grilled, baked or steamed.

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Chardonnay or dry Riesling

 

4 Steenbras fillets of 200 – 225 g each

1 Lemon

1 Tsp. fresh thyme, chopped

1 Tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

1 Tsp. grated lemon rind

1 Tsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

¼ Tsp. salt

¼ Tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Preheat your oven to 200°C.
  • Combine the lemon rind, juice, oil, thyme, oregano, salt, and black pepper.
  • Coat a baking sheet with non-stick spray.
  • Place the fish on the pan, and paint it with the basting mixture.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until just on the point.
  • Serve with savoury rice and a green salad.

 

“There he stands, draped in more equipment than a telephone lineman, trying to outwit an organism with a brain no bigger than a breadcrumb, and getting licked in the process.” - Paul O'Neil.

 

Crab Rangoon: hard to eat in Burma, where you dare not open your mouth

"Washington is gripped by the crab-in-the-bucket syndrome. Put a single crab in an uncovered bucket, and it will find a way to climb out on its own. Put a dozen crabs in the same bucket, and 11 will fight with all their might to pull down the striver who attempts escape.” – Michelle Malkin.

 

wonton (also spelled wantan or wuntun in various Chinese dialects) is a type of dumpling common to a number of regional Chinese cuisines. This should not be confused with the English word “wanton”, which means immoral, gratuitous or lewd, as I discovered on a first date with a posh Englishwoman in my younger years. I took her to the fanciest Chinese restaurant I could afford, and the interpersonal chemistry was developing nicely by the time we ordered. She ordered wonton soup, but pronounced it “wanton”. When I quipped that I hoped this was to get her in the right mood, she was not amused…

Wontons are usually served in two ways: in wonton soup (wontons in a clear broth), or fried as an appetiser. Fried wontons are traditional served with a meat (usually pork) and/or shrimp filling, and eaten with sweet and sour sauce, or hot mustard. A more exotic version is filled with a cream cheese and crab filling; this is called “Crab Rangoon”. Although wonton has deep Chinese roots, the Chinese diaspora has transplanted it to Indo-China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar (the former Burma) – hence the name Crab Rangoon (Rangoon is the former name of today’s Yangon).

 

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 2

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Colombard

 

20 Wonton wrappers (available from Chinese supermarkets)

220g Tinned white crab meat, drained

180g Cream cheese, at room temp

1 Large egg, beaten

½ Tbsp. garlic, minced

½ Tsp. salt

¼ Tsp. white pepper

A dash of Worcestershire sauce

Sunflower oil for deep frying

 

  • Check the crab meat for pieces of shell, and remove any you find.
  • Combine all the ingredients except the wonton, egg and oil in a blender.
  • Heat the frying oil in a deep fryer or deep pot. By the time you are ready to fry the wontons, the oil should be shimmering (around 180°C).
  • Lay several wontons out on a surface. To make things easier, you should only work with a few wontons at a time.
  • Wet the edges of the wonton wrapper. In order for the wrapper to stick together, they need to be slightly moist. Do not soak the entire wrapper, though -, just wet the tip of your finger with a little water and gently rub your wet finger along the edges of the wrapper.
  • Spoon a little of the mixture onto each wrapper. Put anywhere from 1 – 3 Tsp. of filling onto each wrapper, depending on how large the wrappers are. The wrappers should be well filled, but you should also have enough empty wrapper to fold and seal it up.
  • Fold the wonton wrapper into a triangle shape by bringing one corner over to the corner diagonally opposite from it. Press the corners together to seal, and press the sides together to seal, as well.
  • Bring the other two opposite corners together. Fold the two corners at the base of the triangle together, over the filling, and seal them together. You may need to wet the corners again to accomplish this. The end result should be what appears to be a little pocket or "boat" of filling.
  • Make sure you squeeze out all the air or they'll pop open during frying and make a real mess.
  • Seal the edges of the wonton parcels with the beaten egg.
  • Deep fry the wontons in batches until golden brown and crispy.
  • Blot on paper towels.
  • Serve hot, accompanied by a sweet and sour dipping sauce.

 

“Like those crabs that dress themselves with seaweed, we wear belief and custom.” – Cyril Connoly.

 

Escabeche: Sardines can be more than just 'Cuta bait!

 “How like sardines and onions our vices are in the morning after we have committed them.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

 

As much as I love ceviche, I can understand why less adventurous eaters are reluctant to eat fish that hasn’t been cooked in the traditional sense of the word. I have good news for the doubting Thomases: a Latin-American dish that is also tart and refreshing on a hot day – but made with cooked fish. Escabeche (Spanish for “pickled”) consists of fried fish which is marinated overnight and served cold. The marinade is a combination of vinegar or lime juice, onions, peppers and spices, and the fish normally used are smaller, oily species like pilchard or mackerel.

Like its cousin ceviche, escabeche originated among the Arabs of North Africa, and was introduced to Spain during the six centuries of Moorish rule. The technique of preserving fish by marinating it in vinegar and onion arrived in South America with the Spanish Conquistadores soon after its discovery by Columbus. It is widely believed to have been invented in Peru, but today escabeche can be found - with similar-sounding names - in many countries, including Marocco (where it is called scabetche), Jamaica (escovitch), France and Belgium (scaveche), Italy (escabecio).

Because the fish is first cooked, escabeche will last surprisingly long if kept refrigerated. The fish keeps absorbing the vinegary dressing over time, and its flavour deepens, picking up subtle notes of paprika and cinnamon, orange and lemon. With KZN’s annual sardine run just around the corner, bookmark this recipe – it might come in handy…

 

Preparation time: at least 12 hours; up to 24

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a medium-bodied red wine, slightly chilled

 

12 Fresh sardines (pilchards), headless, gutted and skin on

2 Large red onions, halved lengthwise and sliced

6 Garlic cloves, chopped

1 Large carrot, sliced in 5mm thick roundels

2 Cups dry white wine

1 Cup olive oil

½ Cup Sherry or white wine vinegar

½ Cup crushed cream cracker crumbs

3 Strips orange zest, about 8cm x 1cm

2 Strips lemon zest, about 8cm x 1cm

1 Cinnamon stick, around 8cm long

2 Tsp. sweet smoked paprika (pimentón dulce)

1 Tsp. dried oregano

Salt and pepper for seasoning

 

  • Whisk together the crumbs meal and ½ Tsp. each of salt and pepper.
  • Pat the fish dry and season with salt and pepper.
  • Dredge in the crumbs, shaking off excess.
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
  • Fry the fish in 3 batches, turning once, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
  • Transfer with a slotted spoon to shallow dish.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and cook the garlic in the oil remaining in skillet until opaque, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Add the paprika and oregano and cook, stirring, for another minute.
  • Add the wine, vinegar, cinnamon stick, zest and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • Pour the marinade over the fish and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.
  • Bring to room temperature before serving and season with salt if necessary.

 

“The average American doesn't know the difference between a Contra and a caterpillar or between a Sandinista and a sardine.” – Sen. John Porter East.

 

Oyster Po'Boys: NOLA's haute Hero Roll

“A sandwich on Valentine's Day? Well, why not – it's not all about romantic dinners; you may just want to stay in, watch a movie and eat something simple. The most romantic of sandwiches is the Oyster Po' Boy, a traditional New Orleans dish which originated during the Depression when oysters cost as little as 5 cents a dozen and used to be fried and put into sandwiches.” – Mark Hix.

 

In my youth, I would have found it preposterous that someone would use the terms “oyster” and “poor boy” in the same breath. Growing up in the rural hinterland, to me an oyster was a mysterious luxury that glamorous people ate in books and movies. Little did I know that oysters were a staple food of the poor in many coastal locales. In the “Big Easy” – New Orleans – poor Cajuns ate oysters in their sandwiches because they couldn’t afford meat!

There are countless stories as to the origin of the term "po' boy". A popular local theory claims that it was coined in a New Orleans restaurant owned by Benny and Clovis Martin, both former streetcar conductors. In 1929, during a four-month strike against the streetcar company, the Martin brothers served their former colleagues free sandwiches. The Martins' restaurant workers jokingly referred to the strikers as "poor boys", and soon the sandwiches themselves took on the name. In Louisiana dialect, this was naturally shortened to "po' boy."

The traditional versions are served either hot or cold, and include fillings like fried shrimp, oysters, soft shell crab, crawfish and catfish. Non-seafood fillings include spicy sausages, fried chicken, roast beef and French fries. The last two are served with gravy. Fried seafood po' boys are usually dressed with a remoulade (a mayonnaise-like sauce). A Louisiana style hot sauce is optional. Although New Orleans is known for its grand restaurants, more humble fare like the po' boy is very popular among the rank and file.  One of the quintessential New Orleans eateries is the po' boy shop, and along with their sandwiches these shops often offer seafood platters, red beans and rice, jambalaya and gumbo.  There is fierce competition between po' boy shops, and residents’ opinions as to their relative merits vary widely.

The recipe that follows is my interpretation of the “traditional” oyster po’ boy as made in Johnny’s Po-Boys, the world-famous establishment in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 2

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc

 

For the remoulade:

2 Scallions, finely sliced

​½ Cup tangy mayonnaise

​¼ Cup celery, finely chopped

​2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

​2 Tbsp. Picalilli relish

​1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

​4 Tsp. Dijon mustard

​4 Tsp. capers, drained

​2 Tsp. Worcestershire sauce

​4 Dashes Tabasco sauce

For the sandwiches:

2 Hoagie or hot dog rolls, split

2 Cups shucked oysters, drained (about 20 oysters)

2 Cups bread flour

1 Cup maize meal 

1 Ripe tomato, sliced

1 Red onion, sliced 

1 Tbsp. Creole seasoning (if you want to make it yourself, mix onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, thyme, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika and salt, to taste)

1 Cup lettuce, shredded 

Sunflower oil for frying 

1 Tsp. freshly-ground black pepper 

1 Tsp. salt

 

  • First make the remoulade. Blend the scallions, mayonnaise, celery, parsley, Picalilli, vinegar, mustard, capers, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco in a food processor.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Next construct the po'boys. Mix the flour, maize meal, Creole seasoning, pepper and salt.
  • Dredge the oysters through the flour mixture. Shake off any excess flour, and rest the oysters on a plate.
  • Fill a heavy-bottomed saucepan with oil to a depth of 4cm.
  • Place over medium-high heat until close to – but not at - smoking hot.
  • Fry the oysters in 3 batches until golden and crispy, turning as they cook to ensure even colour, about 2 minutes.
  • Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.
  • Spread each side the rolls with some remoulade.
  • Arrange alternate slices of tomato on the bottom of each roll.
  • Divide the oysters between the rolls. Top with lettuce and serve.

 

“The minute you land in New Orleans, something wet and dark leaps on you, and the only way to get it off you is to eat it off. That means beignets and crayfish bisque and jambalaya, it means shrimp remoulade, pecan pie, and red beans with rice, it means elegant pompano au papillote and raw oysters by the dozen, it means grillades for breakfast, a po' boy at bedtime, and tubs of gumbo in between” – Tom Robbins.

 

Baked Scrod: there is beauty in simplicity

“Scrod - a small, ambiguous piece of fish that never knows if it’s cod or haddock. Some people claim that ‘scrod’ is a young cod, while ‘schrod’ is a young haddock, but, in fact, there’s no difference - it’s basically whatever’s cheaper at the fish pier that day.” – Wicked Good Guide to Boston English.

 

I first tasted baked scrod in Legal Sea Foods in Boston’s waterfront. That meal triggered  a dual infatuation: with both the dish and the restaurant chain. Founded in 1950 by George Berkowitz, “Legal” is now an institution: it operates 36 branches all over America, and wins fine dining awards with monotonous regularity. Bon Appétit magazine has described a meal at Legal Sea Foods as among America's "Top Ten Tried-and-True" dining experiences, and it was included in Patricia Schultz's popular guidebook, "1,000 Places to See Before You Die."  At Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration in 1981, Legal Sea Foods clam chowder was chosen to represent the state of Massachusetts and has been served at every presidential inauguration since.

By buying directly from day boat fishing operations, the company markets itself as always having the freshest fish in town. Legal has also pioneered industry advances on fish handling, and is a strong supporter of ethical, sustainable fishing practices and the protection of small, independent fisheries. Their menus vary by location and season and concept, but they all include a wide variety of seafoods, fresh and simply prepared according to New England tradition. In the New England restaurants the most popular items are lobster rolls, clam chowder, fried clams, crab cakes, cod and chips and last but certainly not least, baked scrod.

Scrod has long been a standard feature on menus associated with elegant New England dining. It is not a species of fish; scrod actually refers to fresh young white fish (usually cod, haddock or hake) prepared simply – usually by baking it. In New England the term is only applied to fish with a weight of less than 3lbs (1.4 kg). The name "scrod" may be a derivative of the Dutch schrod, which means “cutting” or “shredding”, or from the Cornish scrawed, which means “splitting”. There are also several apocryphal explanations, for example that is an acronym for "small cod remaining on dock" or "select catch retrieved on [the] day." According to chef/TV journalist Andrew Zimmern, Legal Seafoods have adopted the acronym for "seaman’s catch received on day", implying that whatever whitefish had been caught that day would be used as the day's scrod.

Using the term “scrod” to denote the fish of the day is handy, as menus are often made up before the day's catch is brought in. In days gone by young cod were abundant, and so many diners erroneously regard the two terms as synonyms. As stated above, any fresh, flaky white fish can be used to good effect; the common denominator is that it should be seasoned, crumbed with crushed cracker biscuits and drizzled with melted butter before being baked in the oven. Fresh (never frozen) hake and baby kingklip make admirable substitutes, as do rock cod, slinger or young kob.

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes  

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc      

 

1Kg baby kingklip fillet, divided into 4 portions (or any of the other species named above)

1 Cup crushed Cream Cracker crumbs

2 Lemons, one for juice and one sliced for garnish

1 Cup melted butter, plus 1 Tbsp. extra

1 Tbsp. olive oil

½ Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped

½ Tbs. fresh thyme leaves

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 200°C.
  • Mix the parsley and thyme with the crumbs in a bowl.
  • Mix the oil and 1 Tbsp. melted butter and grease the bottom of a roasting pan with it.
  • Arrange the fish in the roasting tin, drizzle with a bit of lemon and season with salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the fish and drizzle with the remaining melted butter.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. The fish should be cooked through and the crumbs nicely browned.
  • Serve with a simple green salad and the starch of your choice.

 

“And this is good old Boston, home of the bean and the cod, where the Lowells talk to the Cabots and the Cabots talk only to God.” - Toast, Holy Cross Alumni Dinner, 1910.

 

A sleek golden beauty and a Dorado

Beauty & the Bass

April Vokey bests a Chinook

One hopes that these were sustainably caught

Beware of the nippers, Wee Paddy

Grilled Langoustines: prawns from a rough neighbourhood

“Like the Devil, the Norway lobster is known by a variety of different names: cigala in Spain, langoustine in France, Dublin Bay Prawn in Ireland. And in Italy, as well as the U.K., scampi.” -   Tom Parker Bowles.

 

Langoustines (also known as Norway Lobsters, Scampi and Dublin Bay prawns) are crustaceans which are closely related to the lobster, though they are more the size of a large prawn. In appearance they resemble fresh water crawfish or yabbies. Although the bulk of the langoustines eaten in Europe are caught in the Irish Sea and off the Hebrides, they are most popular in France and Italy, where chefs pay top dollar for fresh ones.

They have thicker, harder shells than prawns and can easily be identified by their very long pincers. “Dublin Bay Prawns” have extremely tasty flesh, and their spiny shells impart a distinctive aroma when cooked. Unlike their cousins, the lobsters and crayfish, they don’t turn red when cooked. Langoustines have a pure and delicate taste; some argue the langoustine is even more delicious than lobster. In fact, it is considered by many seafood connoisseurs as the tastiest of all the Crustacea.

The langoustine fits squarely into the luxury food category for a number of reasons all of which have a direct effect on its price. Firstly, supply relative to demand means that strict langoustine fishing quotas are in force. Secondly, langoustine fishing is a tough, labour-intensive task undertaken in some of the coldest, roughest seas on earth. Last but not least, they are not happy travellers. In close quarters they destroy one another and even when accommodated separately they deteriorate quickly. They are therefore fast-frozen while still on the fishing vessel in icy seas, with very few being sold alive.

The langoustine generally eaten in South Africa hails from Zululand and Mozambique, and is scientifically known as Nephrops Moçambicus. It is pale orange in colour, and grows to a length of about 18–20 cm long, including the tail and claws. It can be prepared in exactly the same way as European langoustines. Being an expensive delicacy, I prefer to cook them as simply and naturally as possible, like in this recipe.

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: < 10 minutes

Serves 2

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc or unwooded Chardonnay

 

8 langoustines, split in half lengthways

1 Red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 Clove garlic, finely chopped

Zest and juice of 1 lime

50g Butter

2 Tbsp. sunflower oil

1 Tbsp. fresh coriander, chopped

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Pre-heat your oven grill.
  • Place the butter, chilli, lime zest and juice, coriander and garlic in a small pot, season and heat on the stove top until the butter has melted.
  • Place the langoustines in a plastic bag, add the oil and shake well to coat.
  • Remove them from the bag and arrange them on a baking tray, fleshy side up.
  • Grill until they turn pink and the edges of the shell are ever-so-slightly scorched, about 3 - 4 minutes.
  • Transfer to a serving plate, drizzle with the chilli and lime butter and serve.

 

“Dublin University contains the cream of Ireland: rich and thick.” - Samuel Beckett.

 

Poached scallops and grits: you'll go nuts when you taste it...

"I'm a big lover of seafood. Cooking fish or seafood is so much more difficult than cooking protein meats, because there is no medium, rare or well done when cooking a stunning sea bass or scallop." - Gordon Ramsay.

 

Scallops are fascinating creatures. Although all bivalves have an adductor muscle (which opens and closes the shell), scallop adductors are much more developed, allowing them to actually swim their way, clapping and flapping, through the water like strange, exoskeletal birds. Scallops are also unique among bivalves in that they can see very well, having up to a hundred reflective eyes along the edge of their mantles. Last but not least, most scallop species are free of any attachment to the bottom and some are even migratory.

The only parts of a scallop that are eaten are the large cylindrical adductor muscle and the roe, both male (white) and female (red). Because of their popularity, scallops are farmed on a large scale. According to experts like Rick Stein, the best-quality farmed scallops hail from the lochs of Western Scotland. Unlike fish and shrimp farming, bivalve farming is considered ecologically neutral to beneficial.

To me, the best possible way to savour scallops is au naturel – if you can get hold of live ones. Jakki and I once had the privilege of feasting on succulent live Chilean osteones at Canta de Luna in Concepción, and to this day I can remember their sweet flesh. Sadly, the only scallops I get to eat nowadays are frozen ones from Seven Seas in Cresta. Here is a recipe that really lifts the sweet flavour of the scallop a few extra notches. 

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes 

Cooking time: 35 minutes 

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc

 

12 Large scallops, shell and coral removed

1 Shallot, finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves, crushed


1 Cup coarse maize meal (aka “braaipap” or “grits”)

½ Cup hazel nuts, toasted and chopped


½ Cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


750ml Chicken stock 


500ml Dry white wine

6 Tbsp. butter


Coarse sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper


Snipped chives for garnish


 

  • Bring the chicken stock and 1 cup of water to the boil in a saucepan.
  • Stir the maize meal in gradually, and simmer it over moderately low heat.
  • Cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and 2 tablespoons of the butter.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Keep the porridge warm over very low heat. Stir in a little water if it becomes too thick.
  • Meanwhile melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in another medium saucepan over 
moderate heat.
  • Add the shallot, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.
  • Trickle in the wine and bring to a simmer.
  • Add the scallops and simmer until cooked through, about 5 - 7 minutes.
  • Transfer the scallops to a plate and keep warm. Discard the poaching liquid.
  • Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small pan.
  • Add the hazel nuts and cook, stirring, until warmed, about 2 minutes.
  • Serve the scallops over the grits, topped with the warm hazelnuts and snipped chives.


 

"Our scallops are so delicious your mouth will thank you, which is creepy because your mouth can actually talk." - Scott Adams.

 

Glazed salmon: worthy of nobility

“When you feel neglected, think of the female salmon, who lays 3,000,000 eggs but no one remembers her on Mother's Day.” – Sam Ewing.

 

Among the fishes of planet Earth the predators are the aristocracy, and the apex predators the nobility. Salmon are special in the sense that they rule in both fresh and salt water. Landing a salmon probably features on the bucket lists of more fishermen than any other fish. The salmon has another claim to fame - its taste is delectable when skilfully prepared. But wait, there’s more: it is not just tasty; it is very good for you. Some of the most important health benefits of eating salmon – with its to a high Omega-3 fatty acid content – regularly include improved memory and eye health, relief from arthritis and joint pains and lowering the risk of cardiac disease.

 Salmon is no longer a rare delicacy. Thanks to the Canadians, Norwegians and Chileans, “farmed” Atlantic salmon are now standard features of fishmongers’ slabs – and reasonably priced compared to a lamb chop! Here’s a recipe that will win over even the pickiest eaters - kids and non-salmon eaters included. The trick is that the salmon is grilled, meaning a quick cooking time, buttery flaky results, and no fishy smell in the kitchen. During the last couple minutes of grilling, the fish is brushed it with a sweet/salty glaze that caramelises on top of each fillet (and the sliced red onions cooked alongside), turning irresistibly sticky and slightly crisp.

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Chenin Blanc or Colombard

 

4 Salmon fillet portions of around 150g each, skinless

1 Broccoli head, florets separated (about 2 cups)

1 Large red onion, cut into thin (5mm) wedges

1 Cup long-grain rice

¼ Cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp. soya sauce

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Pre-heat your grill.
  • Combine the sugar and soy sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Cook the rice according to the package directions, stirring in the broccoli during the last 3 minutes.
  • Remove the rice and broccoli from the heat and cover the pot.
  • Allow it to rest until the broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  • Meanwhile, place the salmon and onion on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Drizzle with the oil and season with ½ Tsp. salt and ¼ Tsp. pepper.
  • Broil until the salmon is opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Spoon half the soy sauce glaze over the fish during the last 2 minutes of cooking.
  • Serve the salmon and onion with the rice and the remaining glaze.

 

“I'll love you, dear, I'll love you till China and Africa meet and the river jumps over the mountain and the salmon sing in the street.” – W.H. Auden.

 

Bass in Beer Batter: worth getting up early for

“If your concentration is getting bad, take up bass fishing. It will really improve your ability to focus. If you aren't ready when that fish hits, you can't set the hook.” – Lee Trevino.

 

Growing up, my favourite fish was the black bass. I remember sneaking out of the house in the dark and walking a couple of miles through a pine forest in order to be on the water before dawn. Seeing a bucket mouth engulf a surface lure, immediately followed by the bass jumping clear of the water as it felt the treble hooks in its jaw, was the most exciting thing my pre-adolescent mind could imagine.

Bass are voracious eaters of other fish, frogs, crabs and even fledgling birds – their attitude seems to be “I shall eat anything that doesn’t try to eat me first”. They are also territorial, and will defend their lairs and (in spawning season) their nests aggressively. Lure fishermen believe that many strikes are due to this machismo, rather than a quest for food. Bass not just famous for their aggression and fighting ability – they are also great on the table, their white, flaky flesh has a clean taste and pleasant flavour. My favourite way of serving them is deep fried in a beer batter.

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Colombard

 

900 g Bass fillets, about 1.5 cm thick

1 ¼ 350ml Flour, plus more for dredging

½ Tsp baking powder

1 Egg, beaten

340ml Lager beer

½ Tsp garlic powder

½ Tsp salt

½ Tsp black pepper

750ml Sunflower oil

 

  • Rinse the bass fillets in cool water, pat them dry, and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.
  • Dredge the fillets in flour, then dip them in batter. Allow excess batter to drip back into the bowl. Note: If the batter becomes too thick, add a little milk or water. If it gets too thin, add more flour.
  • Carefully place battered bass fillets into the oil that has been heated to 170˚C.
  • Fry in two batches until golden brown. This should take about 10 minutes per batch.
  • Drain on paper towels and serve with lemon wedges, tartare sauce and a starch of your choice.

 

“There was a big fight at the seafood restaurant where I ate last night. Three fish got battered.” – Bob Hope.

 

BBQ Dorado with pesto: Springbok of the Sea

“My golf game’s gone off so much that when I went fishing a couple of weeks ago my first cast missed the sea.” – Ben Crenshaw.

 

Dorado are highly sought after for sport fishing and commercial purposes. Sport fishermen seek them due to their beauty, size, food quality, and healthy population. They are prolific jumpers, and when hooked give a very good account of themselves. The pleasure continues after the have been subdued – the dorado is one of the tastiest fish around, with a mild clean flavour. Its flesh is firm yet juicy, and can be cooked in so many ways that it is affectionately called “the chicken of the sea” by South African aficionados. Personally I prefer it done with as little fuss as possible; grilling and pan-searing do it for me.

Until recently most dorado were caught as by-catch by pole and long line fishermen pursuing tuna, but a specialised dorado fishery has now developed. In South Africa it used to be the preserve of offshore game fishermen, but more and more dorado can be found in fish and seafood retailers. Dorado cooked over an open fire is a treat all by itself. Add the complex flavours of a good pesto and you have a veritable feast!

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc or unwooded Chardonnay

 

6 Dorado fillets of ca. 250g each, skin on

1 Onion, thinly sliced

1 Cup walnuts, lightly toasted

1 Cup Italian parsley leaves

½ Cup green olives, pitted and chopped

½ Cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking and brushing

6 Lemon wedges

Coarse sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Start your fire first. For fish I prefer using charcoal, as it is relatively odourless.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over moderate heat.
  • Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8 minutes.
  • Puree the parsley leaves in a food processor, along with ¼ cup of the olive oil.
  • When smooth, scrape the puree into a medium bowl.
  • Add the walnuts and onion to the food processor bowl and process to a paste.
  • With the machine on, slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil.
  • Stir the paste into the parsley puree and season with salt and pepper.
  • Brush the dorado fillets with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Braai the fillets about 300mm above moderate coals, skin side first. To make sure the heat is just right, hold the palm of one of your hands directly above the grid and count to 10. If the heat becomes unbearable before you reach 10, your fire is still too hot.
  • Grill the fish until the skin is crisp, about 2 minutes.
  • Turn the fillets and grill until just cooked through, about 3 minutes longer.
  • Transfer the fillets to plates.
  • Spread the walnut-parsley pesto over the fish.
  • Top with the olives and serve with lemon wedges on the side.

 

“Deep sea game fishing is 95% boredom and 5% chaos.” – Hennie Crous.

 

An epic feat: 46kg king mackerel from a surf ski

A nocturnal squid light show

He has a skate on board

A Chinook salmon in spawning colours

Fisherman's Wharf: real Cioppino made by real Mexicans

Cioppino: California's bouillabaisse

“I am as lucky as a bed of oysters on Cioppino night.” – Nenia Campbell.

 

Cioppino is a seafood stew generally associated with San Francisco, transplanted there by Italian immigrants who came to seek work in its burgeoning sardine and tuna fisheries. It is traditionally made from the catch of the day, which in San Francisco is typically a combination of Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, black mussels and fish from the Pacific. The seafood is then combined with a Marinara-type sauce and served with toasted bread, either the famous San Francisco sourdough or French baguette. In this dish, the bread is used as a starch, similar to a pasta. The bread absorbs, holds, and modulates the flavourful yet thin sauce

Cioppino was developed in the late 1800s primarily by Italian immigrants who settled in the North Beach neighbourhood of San Francisco, many from the Ligurian port city of Genoa. Originally it was made on the boats while out at sea and later became a staple as Italian restaurants proliferated in San Francisco. The name comes from the word ciuppin, which is the name of a classic soup from the region of Liguria similar in flavour to cioppino but with less tomato and using Mediterranean seafood cooked to the point that it falls apart.

This concept can be employed virtually anywhere on earth where a variety of fresh fish and shellfish is available. In South Africa the Cape South Coast is in prime position, as it still offers a relative abundance of line fish, crustaceans, squid, shellfish and octopus. This is the comfort food I love making on a blustery day in Struisbaai, when fishing and diving are out of the question but one still wants to celebrate the bounty of the ocean.

 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled dry Rosé

 

450g Black mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded

400g Tinned tomatoes, with juice

250g Skinless flaky white fish such as white steenbras, hake, or kob, cut into 2cm² pieces

250g Cleaned squid, bodies sliced into 1cm thick rings and tentacles halved lengthwise

250g Medium tail-on prawns, peeled and deveined

250g Cleaned clams or alikreukel, coarsely chopped

150g Unsalted butter, room temperature

1 Medium onion, chopped

1 Celery stalk, chopped

1 Medium fennel bulb, chopped

3 Garlic cloves, chopped

2 Bay leaves

1 Cup seafood or chicken stock

1 Cup dry white wine

3 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 Tsp. coarse salt

1 Tsp. dried oregano

½ Tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

½ Tsp. paprika

½ Tsp. lemon zest, grated

1 Baguette, sliced and toasted

 

  • Mince 2 of the garlic cloves.
  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add the onion, fennel, celery, ½ Tsp. salt, and ¼ Tsp. pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
  • Add the minced garlic and paprika. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is golden and fragrant.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the squid.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squid is opaque and tender and the released juices reduced.
  • Add the tomato paste and oregano and cook, stirring, for a minute.
  • Add the wine, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook until cooking liquid is reduced by half.
  • Add the tomatoes with their juice, bay leaves and stock.
  • Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.
  • Stir in the remaining salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the butter, 1 Tbsp. parsley, lemon zest, and a little salt together.
  • Cut the remaining garlic clove in half and rub the cut sides on the toasts.
  • Spread the flavoured butter on the toasts.
  • When ready to serve, heat the pot to medium and add the clams, cover, and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the shrimp and mussels. Arrange the fish on top of the stew, cover, and simmer until the shellfish open and the fish and shrimp are firm and opaque.
  • Discard the bay leaves and stir in remaining 2 Tbsp. parsley.
  • Serve the cioppino immediately in large soup bowls with the slices of toast alongside.

 

“In addition to Lasagna Bolognese, Minestrone, Vitello Tonnato, Insalata Caprese and Tiramisu, Italy has given us Cioppino. This tasty fisherman's chowder, which hails from Liguria - just like pesto - is surprisingly unknown outside of the Bay Area; but along the San Francisco wharf, it's an institution.” – Gail Monaghan.

 

Smoked Salmon Pilaf: nearly Yemen's national dish...

"The depressing thing about an Englishman's alleged love of animals is the dishonesty thereof ... Get a barbed hook into the upper lip of a salmon, drag him endlessly around the water until he loses his strength, pull him to the bank, hit him on the head with a stone, and you may well become fisherman of the year. Shoot the salmon and you'll be ostracised." – Clement Freud.

 

“Salmon” is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. No other fishes are surrounded by as much legend, tradition and folly as the salmon - in particular the Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) – and its cousin the trout. Two of the best books written in the past century tap into the mystique of these noble fish: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday and A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean. Because of their popularity as game fish, salmon have been introduced into non-native environments such as the Great Lakes of North America and Patagonia in South America. Salmon are intensively farmed in many parts of the world, including in Gansbaai near Cape Agulhas.

Salmon hatch in fresh water, migrate to the ocean where they live until maturity, then return to fresh water to reproduce. Folklore has it that individual fish return to the exact spot where they were hatched to spawn; tracking studies have shown this to be mostly true. The nine commercially important species of salmon belong to two genera. The only true salmon in the genus Salmo is the Atlantic Salmon, found in the north Atlantic. The genus Oncorhyncus contains five species which occur naturally only in the North Pacific. This group includes the King or Chinook, Silver or Coho, Pink, Sockeye and Chum Salmon. Pacific Salmon all die after spawning, whereas Atlantic Salmon can spawn several times without any ill effects.

Salmon is a very popular food, far removed from the sole preserve of the aristocracy it once was. It is also considered to be a healthy one due to the fish's high protein, Omega-3 fatty acid and Vitamin D content. The vast majority (nearly 99%) of Atlantic Salmon sold on the world market are farmed, whereas the majority of Pacific Salmon are wild caught (more than 80%). Canned salmon still makes up the largest single portion of the volume consumed by humans, with hot and cold smoked fillets the second biggest. Fresh salmon is an ever more common sight on fishmonger’s slabs, while the fastest-growing segment of the salmon trade is supplying sushi and sashimi restaurants.

As with trout, I prefer my salmon smoked. The following recipe really brings out the best in this storied fish:

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc 

 

300g Basmati rice

250g Broccoli, cut into small florets

150g Hot-smoked salmon fillet, skin removed and flesh flaked

100g Baby spinach leaves

1 Brown onion, finely chopped

2 Large garlic cloves, crushed

3 Tbsp. chopped chives

3 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley

3 Tbsp. slivered almonds, toasted

3 Cups chicken stock

½ Cup dry white wine

2 Tsp. olive oil

2 Tsp. lemon zest, grated

Lemon wedges for garnish

 

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Cook the onion, stirring continually, for 5 minutes or until soft.
  • Add the garlic and lemon zest and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until aromatic.
  • Add the rice and stir continuously for 2 minutes or until the grains appear slightly glassy.
  • Add the wine and simmer until all the wine is absorbed.
  • Add the stock and bring the mixture to the boil.
  • Reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat.
  • Place the broccoli on the rice, and cover the saucepan with a clean tea towel.
  • Replace the lid and set aside for 5 minutes. The broccoli and rice should now be tender and the stock absorbed.
  • Use a fork to separate the grains of rice.
  • Stir in the spinach, chives and parsley.
  • Top the pilaf with the salmon and almonds, and serve with lemon wedges.

 

“Salmon travel for thousands of miles before returning to the same stream. These journeys are the marine equivalent of the wildebeest migrations that take place on the Serengeti plains in Africa.” - Barbara Block.

 

Skate with Caper Butter: it will give you wings!

“When a stingray killed Steve Irwin (the ‘Crocodile Hunter’) 6 people knifed stingrays to death. How dumb do you have to be to honour the memory of an animal conservationist by killing an animal? It’s like honouring those we lost in 9/11 by giving up freedom!” – Steve Hofstetter.

 

Skates and rays became instantly notorious when Australian Steve Irwin (the self-styled “Crocodile Hunter”) died after being stung by a stingray. I will refrain from holding forth on the wisdom or otherwise of harassing wild animals for the sake of TV ratings, and simply state that rays rarely use their barbs – and then only in self-defence. Skates and rays are both flat, diamond-shaped fish with their mouths on the underside of their body. Both are cartilaginous fish, like sharks, and contain no solid bones. They have modified fins, resembling wings, and when swimming look as though they are flying through the ocean.

Generally speaking, rays are the “bad guys” – some species possess a “sting in the tail” while others use electric shock to defend themselves. Not all rays are dangerous, though. The magnificent manta ray is completely harmless, unless it lands on your boat! Skates are the cinderellas of the Super Order Batoidea. None of them possess the ability to shock or sting, and their only defence mechanisms are rather puny thorny projections on their backs and tails. To add insult to injury, rays tend to be boldly coloured while skates tend to be rather dreary and drab in coloration

Skate used to be of little commercial value, even though they were often taken incidentally as by-catch by bottom trawlers off our coast. With the decline in the stocks of popular fish species like hake, Kingklip and sole, skate are now specifically targeted and marketed. Their pectoral fins are now sold as "skate wings", while unscrupulous traders punch discs from the pectoral fins and sell these as “scallops”. While some foodies don’t rate the flesh of skates very highly, I am a fan. Skate wings can be delicious, provided a) they are fresh, b) the residual ammonia in the tissue is removed by soaking them in milk for an hour before cooking, c) they are not overcooked, and d) they are served with a complementary sauce with a bold flavour.   

In my book, the classic skate dish is Skate with Caper Butter. See how simple it is to make:

 

Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Chardonnay or Semillon

 

For the fish:

6 Skate wings, skinned – ideally between 200 – 250g each

1 Large onion, sliced

1 Cube fish or chicken stock

1 Celery stalk, chopped

1 Sprig parsley

1 Sprig thyme

2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped

1 Cup dry white wine

1 Cup water

1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 Tsp. salt

½ Tsp. black peppercorns, bruised

For the sauce:

4 Tbsp. butter

3 Tbsp. white wine or sherry vinegar

3 Tsp. capers, chopped

 

  • Prepare a bouillon by combining all the “fish” ingredients except the skate wings and chopped parsley in a large saucepan and bringing it to a gentle simmer.
  • Poach the skate wings in the bouillon for 15 minutes.
  • Gently remove the wings and allow to cool a little.
  • Lift the flesh from the cartilaginous “bone” and place on a warmed serving platter.
  • Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and keep warm.
  • Brown the butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Don’t allow it to burn; you want beurre noix, not beurre noir!
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the capers and vinegar.
  • Drizzle over the fish and serve ASAP.

 

“Skates and rays are all edible. Some have a slightly bitter taste, but many are regarded as delicacies overseas. But not in South Africa; when it comes to the eating of fish most South Africans are too finicky.” – Prof JLB Smith.

Sicilian-style stuffed squid: La Chokka Nostra

“All I know is: it is better to be the whale than the squid.” – Roger Ebert.

 

Calamari (the culinary name for squid) is one of the iconic dishes from the Mediterranean, with fried calamari probably the most widely eaten. In the Eastern Mediterranean, fried squid is served with a tarator (yogurt) sauce, whereas in the Anglo-Saxon world restaurants and fast food outlets combine it with tartare sauce. In North America, it is a staple in seafood restaurants. It is mostly served as a starter: cut into rings, crumbed, deep-fried and served with tartare sauce or tzatziki.

There are of course many other ways of preparing and cooking squid, with every country and region having its own recipes. It can be grilled, stuffed, stewed with vegetables and incorporated in stir-fry, rice, or noodle dishes. In Britain it is also popular as South Asian “salt and pepper fried squid” in all kinds of establishments, often served as a bar snack, street food or starter. The other main consumers of squid are lovers of sushi, sashimi and tempura dishes worldwide.

Despite Europeans’ long-standing love affair with calamari, their main use locally used to be as bait for fish like Steenbras and Kabeljou. This is no longer the case. Since the 1960s, calamari has become a permanent fixture on restaurant menus. Diners also often have a choice between the local chokka (slightly chewy but bursting with flavour) and imported Falkland Islands calamari, which are dainty and tender, but to me taste rather bland. Cooking them is like good sex: either quick and hot or slowly and gently. The following recipe is from the latter camp.

 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Pinot Grigio

 

6 Medium-sized squid (about 120g each), cleaned and with tentacles

350g Chard or spinach, chopped

2 Medium fennel bulbs, finely diced

1 Large onion, finely diced, about 1 1/2 cups

4 Anchovy fillets, chopped

4 Garlic cloves, minced

1 Cup dry bread crumbs

½ Cup pecorino cheese, grated

3 Tbsp. chopped fennel fronds

2 Tbsp. pine nuts, lightly toasted

1 Tbsp. lemon zest

2 Tsp. ground fennel seed

1 Tsp. dried oregano

½ Tsp. Cayenne pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. chopped parsley, for garnish

6 Lemon wedges, for garnish

 

  • Make the filling:
  • Blanch the chard in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and cool under running water.
  • Squeeze chard completely dry and chop finely. Set aside.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil into a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and fennel, season with salt and pepper, and cook until softened and lightly coloured.
  • Add the fennel fronds, fennel seed, anchovy, garlic, oregano and red pepper.
  • Cook, stirring continually, for about 2 minutes more.
  • Turn off the heat and transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl.
  • Add the pine nuts, lemon zest, bread crumbs, cheese and reserved cooked chard. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Check seasoning.
  • Stuff and bake the squid:
  • Pre-heat your oven to 200°C.
  • Using a teaspoon, put some filling in each squid body, taking care not to overstuff. Secure each tube with a toothpick or two.
  • Place the stuffed squid in an earthenware baking dish in one layer. Season on both sides with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • Season the tentacles with salt and pepper and arrange them around the edge of dish.
  • Drizzle the tentacles lightly with oil. Spoon any remaining stuffing over tentacles.
  • Cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, until squid bodies are puffed, sizzling and lightly browned. If need be, turn on the grill briefly for more colour.
  • Sprinkle the finished dish with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

 

“I was very unpopular in the early grades. Because I hung out with my grandfather, I started packing my lunchbox with sardine sandwiches and calamari that I would eat off my fingers like rings. I was always reeking of garlic.” – Rachael Ray.

 

King Mackerel Inhaca: fit for a king!

“You might as well learn that a man who catches fish or shoots game has to make it fit to eat before he goes to sleep. Otherwise it’s all a waste and it’s a sin to take it if you’re not going to use it.” – Robert Ruark.

 

The best fish meal my wife and I have had in Southern Africa was grilled king mackerel cutlets from a fish I had caught three hours earlier. The friendly staff at Pestana Inhaca Island Lodge had the finished product – along with chips and a salad – on our plates before we could finish our second Caipirinha! “WTF is a king mackerel?” I hear some of you ask. It’s the fish that many game fishermen on South Africa’s East Coast often and mistakenly call “barracuda” or “couta” because of a passing resemblance to the Great Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda)

King mackerel are handsome fish with long, streamlined bodies and a pointed snout housing a large mouth full of razor-sharp teeth. They are vivid blue to dark grey in colour along their backs and flanks, and fade to a silvery blue-grey on the belly. Although the majority of fish caught range between 4 – 10 kg, they can grow to a length of 2 m and reach weights of up to 50 kg. King mackerel are strong and fast, and make long, determined runs after being hooked. One of the most exciting experiences one can have fully clothed is coming across a school of them while trolling lures and/or live bait. Boredom turns into frenzy in seconds when four or more reels start screaming at the same time!

The texture, taste and flavour of fresh king mackerel are out of the top drawer. Sadly, they do not freeze well using conventional appliances. Unless one is able to rapidly “superfreeze” it to -40°C, it will lose most of its exquisite flavour within a few days, because the oily compound responsible only freezes below -30°C. My advice is therefore a) if you are an angler, practice catch and release, and kill only enough for supper or b) if you’re not, only eat king mackerel in restaurants on the coast that source fresh fish from local fishermen.

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Chardonnay or dry Riesling

 

4 King mackerel cutlets of 250 – 300 g each

Zest of 1 lemon

1 Tsp. fresh thyme, chopped

1 Tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

1 Tsp. grated lemon rind

1 Tsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

¼ Tsp. salt

¼ Tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Pre-heat your oven’s grill.
  • Combine the lemon zest and juice, oil, thyme, oregano, salt, and black pepper.
  • Coat a baking sheet with non-stick spray.
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Place the fish in the pan, skin side up.
  • Fry the cutlets for 5 minutes without turning.
  • Transfer them to the baking sheet – still skin side up - and drizzle with the basting mixture.
  • Cook for 5 minutes under the piping hot grill.
  • Serve with chips or roast potatoes and a green salad.

 

“Offshore game fishing is ninety-five per cent boredom and five per cent chaos.” – Capt. Sal Tardella.

   

Fishwife in heart & sole...

Catch of the day, Inhaca Island Lodge

Costa do Sol when you still paid in Escudos

Tannie Kittie's posh sister

Would Trump have banned the Cajun refugees?

Prawn Jambalaya: a Cajun Classic

“Somewhere lives a bad Cajun cook, just as somewhere must live one last ivory-billed woodpecker. For me, I don't expect ever to encounter either one.” – William Least Heat-Moon.

 

A lot of people I know love Cajun cuisine, but know little or nothing about its origins. Cajuns are inhabitants of the US state of Louisiana, and trace their roots to the influx of French settlers after the British “ethnic cleansing” of Acadia - the maritime provinces of Eastern Canada (Nova Scotia, Eastern Quebec and New Brunswick) and parts of Maine and Vermont - in the 1760s. Originally referred to as “Äcadians” the name eventually morphed into “Cajuns” in the local vernacular. Nowadays Cajuns make up a significant portion of south Louisiana's population, and they have exerted an enormous impact on the state's culture.

Since their establishment in Louisiana, the Cajuns have developed their own dialect of French, as well as a distinct style of music and, most notably, cuisine. Cajun cuisine largely rustic cuisine; seasonal local ingredients predominate and preparation is simple. An authentic Cajun meal is usually a three-pot affair, with one pot dedicated to the main dish (usually based on andouille sausage, seafood and/or chicken), one with steamed Louisiana rice and the third containing whatever vegetable is plentiful or available. 

The staple meat of Cajun cuisine is the Anduille: a sausage made of smoked pork, garlic, onions, wine and seasonings. Once the casing is stuffed, the sausage is smoked again. Shrimp (what we in South Africa would call prawns) also feature prominently, as does chicken. Popular vegetables include green bell pepper, onion and celery. Common aromatics include Cayenne pepper, scallions, parsley, thyme and bay leaf. The signature dishes of this unique cuisine are without a doubt Gumbo and Jambalaya. (The blackened meat and seafood served everywhere as supposedly “Cajun” was invented by Chef Paul Prudhomme in the 1970s!

Gumbo can best be described as a thick Cajun soup, usually (but by no means always) containing Okra. Contrary to non-Cajun beliefs, gumbo does not mean simply "everything in the pot". Gumbo exemplifies the influence of French, Spanish, African and Native American food cultures on Cajun cuisine. The name originally meant “Ökra”, a word brought to the region from West Africa. Okra is used as a thickening agent and for its distinct vegetable flavour. The classic gumbo also includes chicken and andouille, but the ingredients vary according to what is available.

Jambalaya is Louisiana’s answer to Risotto or Paella. The only certain thing that can be said about a jambalaya is that it contains rice, some sort of meat (such as chicken or beef), seafood (such as shrimp or crawfish) and pretty much anything else. Usually, however, one will find green peppers, onions, celery, tomatoes and hot chili peppers. Anything else is optional. My recipe below attempts to stay true to what is considered authentic, except that I have substituted the more readily available chorizo for andouille.

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Riesling or Chenin Blanc

 

2 Large chicken breasts (skin on), coarsely chopped

450g Raw queen-sized prawns, peeled and deveined

200g Chorizo sausage, thinly sliced

250g Long grain rice

400g Canned plum tomatoes, crushed

200g Okra, thinly-sliced (optional)

1 Large onion, chopped

1 Medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 Jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped

2 Stalks celery, chopped

4 Garlic cloves, crushed

1 Bay leaf

1 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning

1Tsp. thyme leaves

½ Tsp. Cayenne pepper

350ml Chicken stock

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper for seasoning

 

  • Heat the oil over high heat in a large saucepan with a lid.
  • Brown the chicken for about 8 minutes until golden. Remove and set aside.
  • Tip in the onion and cook for a few minutes until soft.
  • Add the bell pepper, Okra, Jalapeno, celery, garlic and chorizo, and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Stir the chicken back in with the rice, add the prawns, tomatoes, herbs, spices and stock.
  • Cover and simmer for 20 - 25 minutes until the rice is soft.

 

“Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and fillet gumbo! Cause tonight I'm gonna see my ma cher amio, pick guitar fill fruit jar and be gay-o. Son of a gun we'll have big fun on the bayou!” – Jimmy Dean.

 

Barbecued Red Stumpnose: Kittie op die Kole

“A man who tosses a worm in the water isn’t necessarily a friend of the fish. And the fish who takes him for a friend, who thinks the worm’s got no hook in it, usually ends up in the frying pan.” – Malcolm X.

God willing, I shall be fishing for my favourite line fish, the Red Stumpnose, off Cape Agulhas in less than two months’ time. This tasty, hard-fighting fish is affectionately called “Kittie” by Afrikaans-speaking fishermen in the Southern Cape, while further up the East Coast it is known as “Miss Lucy”. There is, it has to be said, a touch of homely spinster about its appearance. Once plentiful along rocky shores, it has retreated to refuges far from the coast like the Agulhas and Alphard banks. In these cold, deep waters they prey on crabs, small crayfish and their favourites: octopus and squid. My experience is that they are patient, wary biters but dogged fighters who fiercely resist being lifted off the bottom.

In my view this is possibly our tastiest line fish. When cooked with care it tastes almost exactly like crayfish. On the rare occasions when I am able to catch my own Kittie, I invariably butterfly the fish, put it on the braai, and baste it with a lemon butter sauce. Surplus fish I poach in court bouillon and use for mock crayfish dishes – it makes a world-class Avocado Ritz. If you are lucky enough to catch a red stump this Festive Season, or come across a decent-sized one at a fishmonger’s, I beseech you to try out this recipe:

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc

1 Red Stumpnose of about 2 kg, scaled, cleaned and butterflied

3 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 Tsp. minced garlic

Salt and white pepper for seasoning

 

  • Start a charcoal fire in your braai first.
  • Mix together the butter, oil, garlic, lemon juice and 2 Tsp. of salt.
  • Place the fish in a clean hinged grid.
  • As with Galjoen, braai the fish at about 300mm above moderate coals. First seal the fleshy side for about 3 minutes, without basting.
  • In the meantime, baste the skin side with the butter sauce.
  • Turn the fish over so that it cooks on the skin side. 80% of the cooking should happen on this side.
  • Baste the flesh frequently.
  • When the skin is crisp and golden brown, turn the fish over and brown the flesh quickly without letting it burn or dry out.
  • Serve with a potato salad.

 

“Teach all men to fish, but first teach all men to be fair. Take less, give more. Give more of yourself, take less from the world. Nobody owes you anything, you owe the world everything.” – Suzy Kassem.

 

LM Prawns: the legend lives on...

“Garlic is divine. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic cut too long ago and garlic that has been tragically smashed through a garlic press, are all disgusting. Please treat your garlic with respect. Too lazy to peel it fresh?  You don't deserve to eat garlic.” – Anthony Bourdain.

 

As I write this, many of my friends and relatives are basking in the sub-tropical sun of Mozambique, and towns like Ponta do Ouro, Bilene and Inhambane have become suburbs of Pretoria. Apart from the unequalled sunbathing, fishing and diving, South Africans are drawn to our Eastern neighbour by its abundant and tasty seafood; most notably its 2 signature dishes: "LM Prawns" (named after Maputo's colonial-era name, Lourenco Marques) and Frango Grelhado (grilled chicken).  Both are packed with copious quantities of chilli and garlic, and it is best to enquire just how hot a dish is before ordering it!  

As a child, our family often vacationed in the then Portuguese territory, and “LM Prawns” used to be a big draw card – along with scrumptious chips fried, Portuguese-style, in olive oil. We had two favourite eateries: the iconic Costa do Sol on the “Golden Mile” north of the CBD and the Catembe Hotel (both of which still operate). My parents preferred the former, which was stylish and close to where we stayed. The kids were all in favour of Catembe, because a meal there involved crossing the bay on an ancient ferry and then taking a rickety bus full of peasants, their baggage and often their domestic animals!

The following recipe comes very close to the traditional “LM” method. It can be executed using your oven grill, but if possible cook your prawns in a hinged grid over a medium-hot charcoal fire. Doing it this way results in the prawn shells searing a bit and giving off a wonderful flavour.      

 

Preparation time: 3 ½ hours

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Vinho Verde or, failing that, an unwooded Chardonnay

 

2 Dozen king-sized Mozambican prawns, whole

2 Tbsp. fresh garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 Tbsp. fresh Bird’s Eye or Serrano chillies, chopped

2 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice

2 Cups olive oil

3 Tsp. salt

1 Tsp. paprika

 

  • First prepare the oil. Best do this the day before; this allows the flavour to develop.
  • To make the peri-peri oil, heat the oil gently, but do not boil.
  • Add all the other ingredients except the prawns. Heat through, but don't boil.
  • Remove from the heat, cool, and save in a clean bottle until needed.
  • On the day of the meal, wash the prawns and pat them dry.
  • Cut open the backs with kitchen scissors and remove the dark vein. Do not remove the shells.
  • Cut down gently with a sharp knife and gently butterfly the prawns – do not cut through the bottom of the tails!
  • Before cooking them, place the prepared prawns in a large bowl, add the oil, stir well, and let them marinade for 3 hours in the fridge.
  • Grill for 10 minutes under your oven grill, or for 5 minutes each side over coals (my favourite technique). Do not overcook the prawns: they turn a dark pink colour when done.
  • Drain them briefly on paper towel.
  • Serve arranged on a hot platter -- with bot chips or pao buns, lemon wedges and wet cloths for hands and dipping bowls for fingers! This is not a dish for dainty eating. Use your hands!

 

“Go to Mozambique! As long as you don't expect to find flawless infrastructure, just go. You still feel a genuineness that no longer exists in countries where tourism has been industrially developed.” – Henning Mankell.

 

Sesame Seared Tuna

“Better to be happy with the cod fish in your plate now, than to linger for the taste of a tuna that is still swimming in the sea.” – Dennis Adonis.

 

Tuna are among the small handful of only predatory fish species that can maintain a body temperature higher than that of the surrounding water. An active and agile predator, the tuna has a sleek, streamlined body, and is among the fastest-swimming pelagic fish – the yellowfin (albacore) tuna, for example, is capable of speeds of up to 75 km/h. Found in temperate to warm seas, it is extensively exploited commercially, and is equally popular as a game fish. As a result of over-fishing, stocks of some tuna species (especially the Atlantic Bluefin) have been reduced dangerously close to the point of extinction.

With its distinct beefy flavour and high nutrient content, tuna is one of the healthiest and most delicious types of seafood available. However, since it has such a low fat content, it tends to get dry and flaky if it's cooked all the way through (think canned tuna). One of the best ways to keep tuna moist - and preserve its flavour - is to use a technique called searing that entails scorching the outside of the meat, leaving the inside rare.

Seared tuna is to fish what cage fighting is to amateur boxing, or a braai to a fondue. It is not for the faint-hearted or ultra-fastidious, but to me it brings out the essence of the tuna, one of the ocean’s most magnificent creatures. A word to the wise, though: don’t bother with this dish unless it is made either with fresh, unfrozen tuna that was bled or alternatively a fish that was super frozen at sea. Tuna handled like normal trawled fish is bland and slightly tough.

 

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Colombard or Semillon

 

For the tuna:

4 x 100g Frash tuna steaks

½ Cup of white sesame seads

1 Tbsp. yuzu or lime juice

2 Tbsp. soya sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil

 

For the salad:

16 Radishes, very finely sliced

½ English cucumber, cut into small dice

4 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves

4 Tbsp. fresh coriander leaves, chopped

The juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp. soya sauce

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

 

  • Heat a griddle pan until very hot.
  • Roll the tuna steaks in half the oil, and then in the sesame seeds. Ensure that the steaks are coated all over.
  • Sear the tuna for 30 seconds on each side, then remove from the pan.
  • Cut the tuna into 2 cm thick slices and arrange on a large serving plate.
  • Mix the yuzu juice, soy sauce and remaining olive oil together in a bowl and pour it over the tuna. Set aside to marinate for a few minutes.
  • Mix the radishes, cucumber, mint and coriander together in a bowl.
  • Whisk the lime juice, soy sauce and olive oil together then drizzle it over the salad and mix until well combined.
  • Sprinkle over the sesame seeds.
  • To serve, spoon the salad alongside the sliced tuna and serve immediately.

 

“You can tune a guitar, but you can't tuna fish. Unless, of course, you play bass.” – Douglas Adams,

 

Sole Seychelloise

“However great the dish that holds the turbot*, the turbot is still greater than the dish.” – Mattial.

* - Large North Atlantic sole.

 

Soles come in myriad shapes and sizes. Their one common denominator is that they are all flat as pancakes. The “true” soles are all members of the Soleidae family, and the Latin name refers to their body shape, which resembles the sole of a Roman legionnaire’s sandal. In many languages soles are also named after the human tongue: lenguado in Spanish, linguado in Poruguese and tongvis in Afrikaans.  

Soles are characterised by flat elliptical-shaped bodies with both eyes located on the same side of the head. This enables the fish to lie in ambush on the bottom of the sea and still use both eyes to spot prey. The surface of the fish facing away from the sea floor is pigmented, often serving to camouflage the fish, but sometimes with striking coloured patterns. Some flatfishes are also able to change their pigmentation to match the background, in a manner similar to a chameleon. The side of the body without the eyes, facing the seabed, is usually colourless or very pale.

Most soles are very tasty, with lean white flesh, and each species has a unique flavour. Flatfish are popular table fish, and they are caught and eaten all over the world. Some of the best-known members of the flatfish family include plaice, lemon sole, flounder, Dover sole, turbot and the giant of the family, the halibut. Two commercially viable species occur In South African waters; the larger but less tasty West Coast Sole and the small but exquisite East Coast Sole. It is the latter that comes into its own in this tropical island-inspired recipe.

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Colombard 

 

4 East Coast (South African) soles, around 250 – 300 g each

2 Large, ripe bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise.

200 g Shredded dried coconut

2 Large eggs, beaten

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2 Cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. coconut milk

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1 Lemon, quartered

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Rinse the fish and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Beat the eggs and coconut milk together in a small bowl.
  • Spread half the flour on a large plate.
  • Mix the coconut and the remaining flour, and spread evenly on another large plate.
  • Heat the oil and 2 Tbsp. butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  • Dredge both sides of each fish piece in the plain flour, then dip in the egg mixture and coat with the coconut and flour mixture.
  • When the oil is hot, fry the fish 2 at a time for 3 - 4 minutes per side or until cooked through.
  • Keep the cooked fish warm in a warmed oven while cooking the rest.
  • When the fish is done, add the remaining butter and squeeze the juice of the lemon into the pan. Fry the banana halves in this mixture until light brown on both sides.
  • Serve the soles topped with a banana half each, accompanied by fried onion rings,

 

“You eat canned tuna fish and you absorb protein. Then, if you're lucky, someone gives you a sole and you experience real nourishment. It's the same with books.” – Lois Lowry.

 

 

Het Zuidste Kaap...

Ryk en lekker: Galjoen on the braai

King of the linefish

Paul picks a winner

Son, you should walk straight like me!

Las Nieves Crab Pie: don't worry, be crabby!

“Because of the ‘crab mentality’ you don't need a lid on a bucket of crabs because when one reaches the top the other one will pull it back down. We rise by lifting others.” – Robert Ingersoll.

 

South Africa is not particularly well-endowed with edible crabs. Local crab-lovers with two choices: imported frozen blue swimming crabs and the indigenous mud or mangrove crab (Scylla serrata). While the latter are among the tastiest of sea foods, there is nothing charming about a live specimen - an adult mud crab is truly a bit of a monster. Its formidable claws can remove human fingers in a flash, and it is highly aggressive. Specimens of up to 5 kg have been reported, and these giants lumber around mangrove swamps and estuaries like latter-day Tiger tanks. They occur from Knysna northwards along the east coast and in many tropical parts of the world. In KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique, they are found in most estuaries.

Crab meat is not always given the credit due to it. It is cheaper than (and just as tasty) as crayfish or lobster, and is full of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, which help build muscle, protect against heart disease and support the immune system. The stomach-filling protein in crab sates your appetite and is used to build and repair body tissue. The only reason I don’t eat it way more often is that obtaining good quality crab meat is a royal pain in the butt: "dressed" crab is often chilled into tasteless oblivion, shelled claw meat costs a king's ransom and tinned crab is but a shadow of the fresh article. If, however, you do manage to obtain fresh (or carefully frozen) crab you can do a lot worse than trying out this recipe, which I first used in our apartment in Santiago in 1995.

 

Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 40 minutes.

Serves 4 adults

Tastes best accompanied by a well-chilled Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or Vinho Verde

 

8 Decent-sized (200 g +) blue swimming crabs or 1 Large (500 g +) mangrove crab – preferably fresh, but frozen will do as well. If they are still alive, put them in a freezer for an hour or so to immobilise them.

A 25 cm diameter pie plate, lined with blind-baked quiche pastry

1 Cup Béchamel (“white”) sauce

1 Small onion (or a large shallot), chopped

½ Cup grated white cheese (I use Mozzarella, but any other mild, creamy cheese will do)

½ Cup of milk

½ Cup of fresh cream

2 Large eggs

½ Tsp. of grated lemon zest

A pinch of ground nutmeg

A pinch of ground mace

1 Tsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tsp. salt

½ Tsp. paprika

Freshly-ground black pepper to taste

1 Tbsp. finely-flaked almonds

 

  • When using frozen crabs, slowly defrost them overnight in your fridge.
  • Chop the large front claws from the crabs, and twist off all the other legs.
  • Cut each crab in half (swimming crab) or quarters (mangrove crab). For the big boys, a meat cleaver works best.
  • Rinse off all chips of shell under running water, and allow the pieces to drip dry.
  • Simmer the crab portions for 15 minutes in salt water (I like to add sea food stock to enhance the flavour).
  • Drain the portions and allow to cool.
  • Crack each portion and scrape out as much of the white flesh as possible. Be careful with who you get to assist you – there might well be “shrinkage”!
  • Pre-heat your oven to 160ºC.
  • Beat the eggs with the milk and cream.
  • Fold all the other ingredients, except for the almonds, into the white sauce.
  • Gently pour into the pie crust. Allow to settle, then sprinkle with the flaked almonds and paprika.
  • Bake for 40 minutes.
  • Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

 

“Oysters open completely when the moon is full. When a crab sees one it throws a piece of stone or seaweed into it and the oyster cannot close again, so that it serves the crab for meat. Such is the fate of him who opens his mouth too much and thereby puts himself at the mercy of the listener.” – Leonardo da Vinci.

 

Cataplana di Polpo: octopus and sweet potatsh...

"Tell me, O Octopus, I begs, is those things arms or is they legs? I marvel at thee, Octopus; if I were thou, I'd call me Us." - Ogden Nash.

 

It might come as a surprise to some readers that the nimble octopus actually belongs to the phylum Mollusca which also includes mussels, clams and snails. They belong to the class Cephalopoda (head-footed) along with squid, cuttlefish and nautili. Octopuses have a reputation of being excellent learners. They are escape artists of note in captivity, and can figure out how to get out of their own holding tanks and break into others containing prey like shrimps. Interestingly, despite being largely solitary, they can also learn by observation in the same way that more social animals like primates do. Octopuses are masters of disguise and possess sophisticated camouflage mechanisms that they use to blend into backgrounds like coral and rocky reefs, kelp forests, sea grass beds and sandy bottoms. Should they indeed be spotted, they still have the ability to eject a cloud of dark fluid (ink) which serves to confuse predators, allowing the octopus to escape.

These fascinating Cephalopods are key species in the marine food chain: they are an important food source for many carnivores, and also prey on a wide variety of fish and crustaceans. They are an important resource for human consumption as well! Rock and surf anglers prize octopus as bait for reef fish like musselcrackers, red steenbras and dageraad, while lovers of Mediterranean and Iberian cuisine feast on them as well. Greeks and Italians love grilling young ones, while boiling and stewing are the most popular methods in Portugal and Spain.

In Portugal’s tourist Mecca, the Algarve, one of the signature dishes is the cataplana, often made with octopus as the central ingredient. The dish is actually named after the metal container it is cooked in. The cataplana vessel is traditionally made of copper, and shaped like two clamshells hinged at one end, which is sealed using a clamp on the opposite side of the assembly. The eponymous dish is a stew based on one of the region’s many seafoods, cooked under pressure with a variety of vegetables. To me the most memorable variety is Cataplana di Polpo Impiattata, made with octopus and sweet potatoes. Because I am not blessed (cursed?) with a sweet tooth, I like substituting amadumbe (African potato) or parsnips for the sweet potato.  

 

Preparation time: 24 hours

Cooking time: 45 minutes plus 20 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Vinho Verde or Colombard

 

600 g Octopus, skinned

2 Large parsnips or sweet potatoes, or 8 amadumbe - peeled

100 g Back bacon, diced

75 g Smoked ham, diced

1 Large onion, cut into julienne strips

1 Red bell pepper, cut into julienne strips

1 Green bell pepper, cut into julienne strips

3 Garlic cloves, crushed

1 Hot chilli, chopped

1 Bay leaf

100 ml Olive oil

150 ml Seafood stock

75 ml Dry white wine

1 ½ Tsp. paprika

1 Sprig of rosemary

1 Sprig of thyme

1 Sprig of mint

1 Tbsp. coriander leaf, chopped

Coarse sea salt for seasoning

 

  • The day before, rinse the octopus well and place in a saucepan without water, with the onion, crushed garlic cloves and chilli.
  • Cook for about 45 minutes, initially on a high heat and with the pan uncovered. Once it comes to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to the minimum.
  • Remove the octopus from the pan as soon as it is cooked and reserve the liquid in the pan.
  • Meanwhile, bake the parsnip/amadumbe/sweet potato in tin foil until soft.
  • On the day of the meal, heat the olive oil in the cataplana, and brown the bacon.
  • Add all the remaining ingredients (except the octopus), as well as the reserved cooking juices, and bring to the boil.
  • Cut the octopus into chunks, and add to the contents of the cataplana.
  • Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Serve with crusty bread and a Portuguese salad.

 

“Octopuses are tough --they're almost pure muscle. With tri-directional muscles in the arms, they're a tad less supple than a well-marbled sirloin, to say the least. So over the centuries, people have been finding ways to make them a little easier on the jaw. The classic tactic is beating the bejesus out of them on rocks.”  - Katherine Harmon Courage.

 

Kingklip with Yogurt, Avocado and Dill Sauce

“A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.” - William Shakespeare, Hamlet.

 

Kingklip vies with the East Coast Sole for the title of South Africa’s favourite dinner table fish. It is a deep water fish, and member of the cusk eel family. It is related to the highly prized (and mistakenly named) “Golden Conger Eel” of Chile.  The flesh of a large Kingklip, while very tasty, is rather tough. For me first prize is a whole young Kingklip of around 1kg, which produces about 600g once beheaded and gutted. Grilled or fried whole, it is scrumptious! There are also no annoying little bones that stick in your throat – it is as easy to eat off the bone as a Sole.

Given all its desirable qualities, Kingklip can be cooked in myriad ways. Pan-fried, deep-fried, grilled, baked or steamed or poached – every conceivable technique, except perhaps barbecuing, can be applied. Unfortunately the price of Kingklip has risen steeply in recent years, but this should be seen in proper context. Table-ready Kingklip, which is 95% + wholesome protein, still costs less per kilo than lamb chops, more than half of which is made up by bone, sinew and fat!

The following recipe plays to the Kingklip’s strong suit, its wonderful flavour. It’s quick and easy to make, and the result is a tasty, visually attractive dish.

 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Pinot Gris or Colombard

 

The fish:

4 Kingklip fillets of around 120 g each

2 Tbsp. melted butter

The sauce:

1 Ripe Hass avocado, peeled and diced

½ Cup Greek yoghurt

3 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped

1 Garlic clove, minced

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

The salad:

200g Baby rocket

10 Baby vine tomatoes, halved

1 Cup fresh basil leaves

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

 

  • Prepare the yoghurt sauce by combining the avocado, yoghurt, dill, garlic, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon water, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy. (If necessary, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.) Refrigerate.
  • Toss the salad ingredients together. Season with the salt & pepper and olive oil.
  • Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  • Brush the Kingklip with a little melted butter and pan-sear on both sides until golden brown. Do not overcook the fish or it will be tough.
  • Drain the fillets on paper towel and keep them warm.
  • Place the tossed salad on the plates.
  • Place the cooked fish on top of the salad and top with the sauce.

 

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein.

 

Galjoen on the Braai: Cape Superfood

“Dear Lord, please grant me the serenity to accept the size of the fish I catch, the courage not to lie about it, and the wisdom to know that none of my fishing buddies would believe me anyway. Amen.” – Anonymous.

 

The feisty Galjoen (Coracinus capensis) is our national fish, and was named after the galleon, a fast and sturdy sailing ship, by the early Dutch settlers. It literally rides the surf onto the rocks, where it grabs mussels, marine worms, small crabs and pieces of red bait with its sharp front teeth. Its strength and agility makes it a formidable fighter, and a big Galjoen is a prize catch among Cape rock and surf anglers. Because it feeds close inshore, it is in peak condition during the winter months when big waves dislodge its favourite food items from the rocks.

The Galjoen is a medium-sized fish, with an average weight of 1 – 3kg and a maximum of around 6kg. Because it lives within easy reach of shore anglers, the Cape’s Galjoen population has been decimated by overfishing over the past 50 years or so. Anglers used to brag about catches of 50 – 100 fish in a morning; clearly not a sustainable practice. Strict bag limits, a closed season and a ban on its sale have helped to slow its decline, but it is still a vulnerable species. 

The flesh of the Galjoen is fatty, and marbled with tiny veins. It has a taste people either love or hate – very rich and slightly gamey.  The traditional Cape modus operandi is to butterfly the fish, cover the flesh with coarse salt to firm it up, rinse off the salt and then hang the fish out to wind dry. It is then barbecued with only salt and pepper. Old Cape hands sometimes cook it Kleftiko style on the beach, wrapped in newspaper and baked among hot coals buried in the sand. If you are lucky enough to get hold of a Galjoen or two this winter, I would encourage you to try this recipe.

 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Colombard or dry Riesling

 

1 Fresh Galjoen, about 1.5kg – scaled, but not skinned - with its head on

3 Tbsp. butter, melted

3 Tbsp. sunflower oil

3 Tbsp. coarse salt

1 Tsp. ground white pepper

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

 

  • Start your fire first. Purists insist it has to be Rooikrans wood, but its smoke smells like a squatter shack to me. Take my advice and use charcoal.
  • Butterfly the Galjoen, splitting the head in two.
  • Leave the stomach area, which contains most of the fat, intact.
  • Remove the gills and entrails carefully and wipe the fish clean inside and out. Do not rinse it with water.
  • Mix together the butter, oil and 1 Tbsp. of salt.
  • Brush the basting over the fish’s skin.
  • Sprinkle the rest of the coarse salt as well as the pepper over the flesh of the fish and place in a well-oiled grid.
  • Braai the Galjoen about 300mm above moderate coals, skin side first. To make sure the heat is just right, hold the palm of one of your hands directly above the grid and count to 10. If the heat becomes unbearable before you reach 10, your fire is still too hot.
  • When the skin is crisp and golden brown, turn the fish over and brown the flesh quickly without letting it get too dry.
  • Baste with the lemon juice from time to time.
  • This dish is traditionally served with brown bread and grape jam.

 

“Please note that ‘angling’ is the word for ‘fishing’ used by people who can’t catch fish.” – Stephen Leacock. 

Pickled alikreukels: waste not, want not!

“There are two things that look like a freshly-caught perlemoen (abalone). The one is a freshly-caught perlemoen.” – Pieter Pieterse.

I am an unrepentant alikreukel (aka giant periwinkle) junkie. The demise of the perlemoen has made it rise even higher in my estimation. Alikreukels are under pressure too: while they used to be abundant in intertidal pools, man’s predation has resulted in most now being found between the low-water mark and a depth of about 8 m. Although by no means rare, nowadays it is not easy to find large individuals except in marine reserves. I am fortunate enough to know a few spots in the Struisbaai/Cape Agulhas area where real whoppers are still reasonably easy to find over Spring Tide.

Because of its relative scarcity, it is sacrilege to waste this delicacy. Left-over alikreukel can and should be pickled – it is quick and easy, and if done properly the alikreukel ends up tasting really good. This is how I do it:

NB: This recipe works equally well with perlemoen and periwinkles.

 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes (beforehand)

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc

 

750 g Alikreukel, cooked and sliced thinly. Preferably only use the tender olive-green “foot”.

1 ½ Cups cider vinegar

1 ½ Cups fresh water

2 Dozen whole black peppercorns, bruised but not cracked

12 Whole allspice seeds

10 Cloves

4 Whole dried chillies

6 Bay leaves

1 Cup spring onions, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp. French chives, chopped. Alternatively use 4 sprigs of fresh thyme.

 

  • Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Divide equally among a number of airtight pickling jars.
  • If need be, top up the last jar with equal amounts of water and vinegar.
  • Pour a little olive oil into each jar to seal the contents.
  • Close the jars and refrigerate for a least 10 days before serving.
  • The alikreukel slices can be used as tapas on their own, as snacks on crostini or in seafood salads.

“I had a dream about you. You were storing my brain in a pickle jar in the fridge, and I only discovered it when I went to garnish my hamburger. Mindless and hungry, I was a US politician’s ideal voter.” – Jarod Kintz.

 

No chorizo here, Sr Oliver!

Okavango catfish herding small fry into a bait ball

Leaping rainbow trout - aptly named!

A skin diver eyeing some real "hubcaps"

A day's work in Struisbaai's inter-tidal zone

Struisbaai Alikreukels

Fennel-baked Trout

"He told us about Christ's disciples being fisherman, and we were left to assume...that all great fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fisherman and that John, His favourite, was a dry-fly fisherman." Norman Maclean - A River Runs Through It.

The British Empire and its citizens did a great deal of damage to Southern Africa. They invaded the Boer republics and Lobengula’s Zimbabwe to grab their mineral riches, and killed not only the fighting men. Thanks to their “concentration camps” nearly 27 000 Boer men, women and children died of disease and malnutrition. Many blacks shared their fate, and about 15 000 died in camps. But they also introduced many good things, like rugby, cricket and fly fishing.

Colonists introduced rainbow trout and brown trout to South African waters towards the end of the nineteenth century, in keeping with the Victorian custom of transferring British species to the far-flung corners of the Empire. This enabled them to hunt and fish like posh people, with fly fishing for trout being a particularly exclusive pastime. Both trout species are cold-water salmonids and, as a result of the higher ambient temperatures in South Africa, they can only survive in mountainous regions. Between sport fishing and the rearing and processing of fish for the table, trout sustain a multi-million Rand industry and tens of thousands of jobs.

Trout have been popular table fish for centuries, and chefs have developed a myriad ways of cooking them. Because farmed or stocked trout tend to be on the oily side my preferred techniques are either hot smoking or grilling. The following recipe is ideally suited to smaller, whole fish and the fennel flavour complements the taste of the trout perfectly.

 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves 2

Tastes best accompanied by a “spicy” dry white wine like Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris or Colombard

 

Two pan size (about 450 - 550 g each) trout

400 g Potato

1 Bulb of Florentine fennel (ca. 200 g)

250 g Coarse sea salt

75 ml Dry vermouth

3 Tbsp water

75 g Butter

Table salt and black pepper for seasoning

 

  • Clean the trout and remove the gills. Sprinkle the skin with the salt and leave for 10 minutes. Rinse and dry with paper towel. Season the body cavity with salt and black pepper.
  • Trim the “leaves” off the fennel bulb, and reserve for use as garnish. Slice the bulb thinly and scatter the slices over the bottom of an oven-proof dish.
  • Peel and thinly slice about 400 g of potato. Arrange in a layer on top of the fennel.
  • Pour over 3 tots of dry vermouth and 4 tablespoons water. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the trout on top of the vegetables. Place small knobs of butter, 5 cm apart, down the length of each fish, and sprinkle some chopped fennel leaves over them.
  • Cover the dish tightly with foil (shiny side inwards) and bake at 180 degrees Celcius in a pre-heated oven for 40 minutes.
  • Serve with lemon wedges, and coleslaw.

"The gods do not deduct from man's allotted span the hours spent in fly fishing." -  Herbert Hoover.

Agulhas-style Alikreukels

“What do you call a mollusc that won’t share? Selfish!” – Billy Higginbotham.

I have just returned from a pleasant few days in Struisbaai, the charming but rather windy village adjacent to Cape Agulhas. Thanks to Spring Tide, I was able to pursue one of my favourite quarries: the Alikreukel or Giant periwinkle (Turbo sarmaticus). Alikreukels used to be abundant in intertidal pools, but due to man’s predation most are now found between the low-water mark and a depth of about 8 m. Although by no means rare, it is not easy to find large individuals except in marine reserves. I am fortunate enough to know a few spots in the Struisbaai/Cape Agulhas area where real whoppers are still reasonably easy to find over Spring Tide.

Like its more glamorous cousin the perlemoen, the alikreukel can be tough and chewy when handled and cooked incorrectly, but a true delicacy in the right hands. The trick is in how to remove it from its turban-shaped shell – drop the alikreukel in heavily salted boiling water and cook it on high heat for 15 minutes. The “foot” can then be extricated by simply shaking the shell vigorously.Remove the guts and head, rinse under clean fresh water and the alikreukel is ready to be prepared in a number of ways. My friends in the Western Province will probably be appalled, but my favourite way of serving this tasty mollusc is not as mince in a creamy nutmeg sauce. I believe one extracts more enjoyment from alikreukel when serving it the way you would garlic snails. This is my favourite way of serving it:

 

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 4 adults as a light main course, or 6 as a starter

Tastes best accompanied by a Sauvignon Blanc or unwooded Chardonnay

 

12 Legal-size alikreukels, cooked and cleaned

250 g Butter

2 Finely chopped shallots (or pickling onions),

4 Large cloves of garlic, chopped

1 Bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 Smaller bunch of chervil, chopped

1 Tsp. salt

1 Tsp. ground black pepper

A pinch of allspice

 

  • Chill the alikreukel to near freezing. This makes them firmer and easier to slice.
  • Slice the alikreukel horizontally in thin (5 mm thick) steaklets.
  • Next, mix the savoury butter ingredients and heat slowly over medium heat in a large saucepan.
  • When the butter begins to bubble, add the alikreukel.
  • Cook them gently for 10 minutes without letting the butter boil.
  • Serve in snail dishes or small, deep side plates with cubes of crusty bread to scoop up the buttery sauce.

“I don’t eat shellfish. Mom always said we shouldn’t eat things that carry their homes around with them. Who knows when last they cleaned it?” – Drop Dead Gorgeous.

Perlemoen-frikkadelle

“God could have banned slavery. Why did He have to go and ban shellfish instead?” – Robin Williams.

When I was a student at the Military Academy in Saldanha in the early 1990s, I used to go snorkel diving whenever I could. In season, my priority would be to get hold of a few perlemoen (Haliotis midae). Whether fried, steamed, minced or stewed, they will always be my favourite sea food. Sadly, rampant poaching has decimated our once-plentiful stocks. When too many perlemoen are harvested in one area, those that are left are too far apart to reproduce. To add insult to injury, climate change has also played its part in this unfolding tragedy. Crayfish have moved into areas where perlemoen once predominated. They prey on the sea urchins among which juvenile perlemoen shelter, leaving them nowhere to hide. They are then easy pickings for predators like cat sharks.

In an effort to reduce the pressure on our remaining stocks, recreational diving and the selling of wild perlemoen has been banned until further notice. Currently, the only legal ways of eating this delectable mollusk are to order farmed perlemoen in a restaurant, or to buy canned, minced perlemoen meat from specialty stores. When I occasionally get hold of the latter – usually at the Dassiefontein farm store near Caledon – I usually make perlemoen frikadelle (meatballs) with them. This how I do it:

 

Preparation time: 3 hours

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled, unwooded Chardonnay 

 

600 g Minced perlemoen, drained

2 Small eggs

1 Small shallot, finely chopped

1 Scallion, finely chopped

2 Cups of seasoned toasted bread crumbs

1 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped

1 Tsp. fresh tarragon, finely chopped

½ Tsp. ground nutmeg

1 Tbsp. milk

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

500ml Canola oil for frying

8 Lemon wedges

 

  • Mix the perlemoen, shallot, scallion, parsley, tarragon, nutmeg, salt, pepper and one of the eggs in a large bowl.
  • Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up the contents.
  • Remove the bowl from the fridge, and shape the perlemoen mixture into balls the size of plover’s eggs (around 5 cm in diameter) and roll them in half the bread crumbs. NB: Handle very gently, as the mixture will be soft and moist.
  • You should end up with between 16 and 20 frikkadels. Place them on a tray, and refrigerate for a further 2 hours.
  • Whisk the second egg and the milk together, and dip the frikkadels in this mixture, and then in the remaining bread crumbs.
  • Return them to the fridge while you heat the cooking oil to medium-high.
  • Deep fry the frikkadels in two batches until the crumbs are golden brown.
  • Drain on paper towel and serve with the lemon wedges, and perhaps slices of fresh baguette and butter.    

“Shellfish aquaculture is a no-brainer. These animals stay quiet, they stay where you put them and they clean up the water.” – Daniel Pauly.

Southern Fried Catfish

“All deep-swimming freshwater fish are regrettably assumed to have a muddy taste. I have come to the realisation that, with skilful handling, some of them can actually be very tasty.”  – C. Louis Leipoldt.

Most people who have never tasted catfish recoil at the thought of eating those ugly creatures lurking in the depths of muddy inland rivers and dams. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hear what Dr Leipoldt had to say about the catfish: “In a farmhouse on the banks of the Grootrivier (Orange River) I once ate very tasty fish. It was a thick fillet; roasted over open coals. It was boneless and tender with a pleasant flavour and a slightly acidic aftertaste. When I asked what it was, the tannie (woman of the house) said that it was the filet of a catfish that had been cut out and marinated in vinegar for a few hours.”

In her folksy way, that old tannie had figured out how to turn a despised “trash fish” into a very tasty meal. Catfish are lower in calories than most meat products and lower in cholesterol content than most other fish. In a nutshell, catfish is an excellent table fish after a few simple preparatory steps. My advice is to:

  • Purge it. If possible, don’t kill the fish immediately. Like Christmas Carp, let it swim in clean fresh water for at least 8 hours. This diminishes any “muddy” flavour.
  • Bleed it. Whether or not it has had this catharsis, when the time comes to kill it, bleed the fish by cutting up its gills. The blood actually disseminates odours to the muscle tissue. White flesh is tasty flesh.
  • Skin it. Catfish always tastes better without the rubbery skin.
  • Marinade it. I wouldn’t go as far as using vinegar, which could turn you filets into Bismarck Herrings if you’re not careful. I give them an hour in dry white wine or milk, depending on how you plan to cook them. If you’re going to fry them is in my recipe below, the tartness of the wine works better.

The people who probably understand cooking catfish best are (US) Southerners, both Black and White. This recipe for fried catfish will win hearts and minds!

Southern-fried Catfish

Preparation time: 15 Minutes

Cooking time: 15 Minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Cape Riesling

12 Catfish fillet cuts, weighing about 1.8 kg

1 Cup wheat semolina

½ Cup cake flour

1 ½ Tsp Cayenne pepper

½ Tsp garlic flakes

3 Tsp salt

Sunflower oil for frying

  • Combine the semolina, flour, Cayenne, garlic and 2 teaspoons salt in a large shallow dish.
  • Sprinkle the catfish fillets evenly with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and dredge them in the semolina mixture. Ensure that they are coated evenly.
  • Pour the oil into a large, deep saucepan or Dutch oven up to a depth of 5 cm and heat over medium-high heat to 160°C.
  • Fry the fillets in batches until golden brown and drain them on paper towels.
  • Serve the fish Deep South-style, with boiled sweetcorn on the cob and coleslaw.

“My husband calls me ‘Catfish’. He says I’m all mouth and no brains.” – Dolly Parton.

Paella de Mariscos

“Politicians are like prawns – no guts, no backbone and heads full of sh*t.” - #FeesMustFall placard.

Paella de Mariscos (seafood paella) is one of the classic seafood dishes. The mere mention of the name conjures up images of warm summer evenings, whitewashed fishing villages and the sound of flamenco. This summer favourite hails from Spain, but we have all the ingredients we need right here in Mzansi. Enjoy this with family and friends this Festive Season.

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Vinho Verde

 

750 g Kingklip or Monkfish, cut into bite-sized chunks

12 Tiny baby octopus or squid heads

12 Black mussels in their shells

12 Clams in their shells

12 Queen prawns, in their shells

6 Cups fish, seafood or chicken stock

1 Medium onion, chopped

6 Scallions, chopped

1 Red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 Large tomato, chopped ½ Cup uncooked green peas

5 Cloves garlic, minced

1 Tsp. saffron threads (or 2 Tsp. turmeric)

2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh thyme

2 Tsp. paprika

1 Cup olive oil

2 Cups long-grain rice

Salt for seasoning

Lemon wedges

  • Pat the fish, octopus and prawns dry between paper towels.
  • Sprinkle everything with salt and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  • Mash the parsley, garlic, thyme and ¼ Tsp. salt into a paste with a mortar and pestle.
  • Stir in the paprika; add water if necessary to form a paste.
  • Heat the stock in a large pot.
  • Stir in the saffron.
  • Heat 6 Tbsp. of oil in a medium-large (40 cm diameter) paella pan over medium high heat.
  • Quickly brown the octopus, then remove them and set them aside on a warm platter.
  • Fry the fish for 1 - 2 minutes in the same oil. Do not fully cook it.
  • Transfer the fish to the warm platter.
  • Add remaining 2 Tbsp, of oil, onion, scallions and bell pepper to paella pan and cook until the vegetables are slightly softened.
  • Increase the heat, add the tomato and cook until it becomes sauce-like, 2 to 5 minutes.
  • Pour in the hot stock and bring to the boil.
  • Sprinkle the rice evenly across the pan and boil for 3 minutes, stirring the rice and rotating the pan occasionally.
  • Return the octopus and fish.
  • Stir in parsley paste and check the seasoning.
  • Do not stir after this point. Lower the heat and continue to simmer the dish until the rice is no longer soupy but enough liquid remains to continue cooking the rice.
  • Add extra liquid if necessary.
  • Arrange the prawns, clams and mussels on the rice, placing the edges of the mussel and clam shells so they open facing up.
  • Sprinkle the peas evenly over the contents of the pan.
  • Cook, uncovered, for 15 - 20 minutes until the rice is nearly done.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and discard mussels and clams that haven’t opened.
  • Cover the pan with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  • Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

“Arroz con cosas no es paella (rice with stuff in it isn’t paella)” – Valencian proverb.

 

Elouise with Linda & Johan Weyers and lunch

Ushuaia on the Beagle Channel: here be Toothfish!

Snoek fever

The Nirvana of traditional Cape seafood

Guess who doesn't like mussels?

Moules-frites: Fish & chips for grown-ups

“I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.” – WC Fields.

 

This classic North European dish, also known as “Sailor’s mussels” or “Mariner’s mussels”, consists of fresh mussels delicately steamed in white wine with garlic, parsley, butter, onion and cream sauce. The addition of lardons (bits of bacon) adds a permeating smokiness. While many gourmets are happy to have the dish on its own – with pieces of baguette to sop up the delicious mussel liquor – I love adding to the occasion with some extra-crispy Belgian-style fries. This combination is called Moules-frites (short for Moules et Frites) in Francophone areas. The Flemish and Dutch call it Mosselen-friet. Even the French will concede that the best "frites" come from Belgium. The Belgians have been refining the art for centuries, after learning the technique of deep frying potatoes in oil from their erstwhile Spanish masters.

 

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 4 as a starter, or 2 as a main course.

Tastes best with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Belgian Lambic (wild yeast) beer

 

For the Moules Marinières:

1 kg Fresh, live mussels (or defrosted half-shell ones)

200 g Chopped bacon or pancetta

2 Cloves of garlic, chopped

1 Shallot, chopped

175ml Dry white wine

2 Tbsp butter

3 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped

4 Tbsp fresh cream

Salt and pepper for seasoning

For the fries:

1 Kg hard fat (the kind is not as important as that it has to be hard, not oily)

1 Kg floury potatoes (again, the variety is to the texture)

5ml Salt

 

Cooking the mussels:

  • Clean, de-beard and rinse the mussels several times in cold running water.
  • If using live ones, discard any that do not snap shut when tapped and set the rest aside in a colander.
  • Cook the lardons in a wide, heavy-bottomed pot until crispy, but not burned.
  • Remove the lardons and drain them on paper towel.
  • Remove all but one tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pot, and a tablespoon of butter.
  • Once the butter starts bubbling, add the chopped shallot and garlic.
  • Cook for a few minutes on a medium heat until the shallots have softened.
  • Add the white wine and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the mussels and cover the pot, cooking on a high heat for 10 minutes.
  • Gently shake the pan several times during cooking to redistribute the mussels.
  • Remove the mussels one by one as they open, placing them in a colander with a bowl underneath to catch the juices.
  • Again discard any mussels that have remained tightly shut.
  • Return the lardons to the liquid and boil until reduced by half.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the cream and parsley.
  • Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Transfer the mussels to a large bowl, pour the reduced liquid over the mussels, and serve with the frites.

Making the fries:

  • Peel the potatoes , and cut them lengthwise into discs of about 5 cm thick, then slice the discs lengthwise into fries of the same thickness.
  • Rinse the fries in cold water.
  • Drain the water and wash them again in fresh clean water.
  • Repeat this a few times until no starch comes off the potatoes, and the water stays clear.
  • Dry the fries well. Moisture is your enemy – it makes the fries less crispy.
  • Heat the fat in a deep fryer, let it melt and reach 160°C.
  • Put a modest amount of fries in the cooking basket - you will have to do this multiple times. If you put in too many fries at once the temperature will drop and your fries will turn out mushy.
  • Make sure all fries are submerged by shaking the basket . During cooking you can shake the basket a few times so you know they're not sticking together.
  • Important: To check if the first batch is done lift your basket out and pinch a fry. If you can pinch all the way through they are done. At this stage they should still look pale and white.
  • Leave the fries on a large platter or baking tray and let them cool down. Once they are reach room temperature they are ready for the second round.
  • Set the thermostat of your fryer at 190°C.
  • Re-fry the precooked fries, shaking the basket in the oil a few times during cooking.
  •  The fries are ready when they are a rich golden brown in colour.
  • Drain them – first by lifting the frying basket from the fat and them in a deep plate with a paper towel at the bottom.
  • Add a bit of fine salt, and serve with the mussels. Smakelijk! (bon appétit!).

 

“After a lifetime of eating American-style French fries, the first taste of Belgian frites is a transformative experience.” – Jamie Feldmar.

 

Creamy Seafood Potjie

“Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There is plenty of movement, but you never know in which direction it will be.” – H Jackson Brown Jr.

 

This dish can be made either in a conventional pot on the stove, or in a three-legged “potjie” over low heat. The ingredients described below are my preferences; feel free to experiment. The key is to understand the texture of the raw material – tougher ingredients (e.g. octopus, calamari and alikreukel) should be introduced first and browned quickly, otherwise they remain rubbery. Tender items like fish, prawns and mussels should go in late in the process, and cook for no more than about 15 minutes over low heat.

 

Prepation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 6 adults.

Tastes best accompanied by a crisp, well-chilled Chardonnay or Vinho Verde.

 

300 g Baby octopus, skinned and tenderised with a mallet. Alternatively use strips of cuttlefish steak.

500 g Kingklip, cut into 5x5 cm cubes.

18 Queen-sized prawns, peeled & de-veined.

200 g Black mussels.

200 g Cooked clams (white mussels) or quartered alikreukels (giant periwinkles).

2 Tbsp butter.

1 Tbsp olive oil.

2 Large onions, finely chopped.

1 Large bell pepper, finely chopped.

2 Cloves of garlic, finely chopped.

½ Cup of flour.

250ml Dry white wine.

250ml Full cream milk.

250ml Seafood or chicken stock.

1 Tbsp Italian parsley, chopped.

1 Small chilli pepper, finely chopped.

1 ½  Tsp each of salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

1 Tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese.

 

  • In a medium-sized pot, quickly brown the onions in a little butter and olive oil, then add the octopus.
  • When the octopus has shrunk and discoloured, add the Kingklip, garlic, chilli and bell pepper.
  • Cook together for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Lower the heat and sprinkle the flour over the seafood.
  • While stirring vigorously, add a little of the wine, milk and stock in turns. Only add more liquid when the recently added moisture has been absorbed. This is the same technique used to make “white” sauce.
  • When all the liquids have been absorbed, allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the clams/alikreukel and allow to reach boiling point. Then add the prawns, and when they have turned opaque, add the mussels.
  • This process should take around 45 minutes. Now add the parsley and parmesan.
  • Gently stir in and remove the pot from the heat.
  • Season with the salt and pepper.
  • Serve on tagliatelle, fettucini, rice or mashed potato.

 

“When Mary is confused or perplexed, she spurts anger the way an octopus spurts ink, and hides in the dark cloud of it.” – John Steinbeck.

 

 

Smoorsnoek: a true Cape classic

“Did you hear about the cannibal who was converted by Catholic missionaries? Nowadays he only eats fishermen on Fridays!” – Jay Leno.

 

Smoorsnoek is one of the Cape kitchen’s most beloved dishes. The fierce snoek (Thyrsites atun) invades Cape waters during the winter months in huge shoals, gorging themselves on the abundant small prey fish. Snoek are in turn pursued by artisanal fishermen who risk life and limb to catch the marauding predators with hand lines from tiny boats. Because the oily fish spoils easily, it is butterflied and mild-cured with coarse salt minutes after landing. 

Langhaans (fishmongers) buy the fish in bulk and sell them on to eager consumers, often off the back of pickup trucks along major roads and streets. Once mainly poor man’s food, snoek is now a Cape icon. It is often done on the braai in the Western Province, but I must confess the traditional smoorsnoek (simmered snoek) has a special place in my heart. This is another champion comfort food in winter; one of which Jakki and I are about to partake!

 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best served with a crisp dry white wine.

 

350 g Smoked snoek

2 Medium onions, roughly chopped

3 Medium potatoes, chopped into small dice

3 Italian plum tomatoes, skinned & chopped

1 Decent-sized hot chilli, finely chopped

1 Tbsp sultanas (optional)

1 Clove of garlic, crushed

1 Tbsp sunflower oil

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tsp sugar

1 Cup of fish stock

Salt and ground black pepper for seasoning

1 Tbsp chopped parsley to garnish

 

  • Remove the skin and bones from the snoek, and flake the meat.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan, taking care not to let the butter burn.
  • Sauté the sliced onion in the oil and butter mixture.
  • Add the diced potatoes and stir-fry until golden.
  • Stir in the fish stock.
  • Add the tomatoes, sultanas, chilli, garlic and sugar, and season to taste.
  • Simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked.
  • Add the snoek and heat through.
  • Garnish with the chopped parsley.
  • Serve on rice, with a green salad on the side. I like fruit chutney with mine.

 

“Snoek is the only food considered spoilt when it smells like what it is.” – Joe Parker.

 

Louis' Faux Toothfish

Fish is … one of the greatest luxuries of the table, and not only necessary, but indispensable at all dinners where there is any pretence of excellence .” – Izabella Beeton.

 

Since Patagonian Toothfish is a) becoming ever rarer, and b) there is growing pressure on suppliers and restaurants not to market it, very few people are likely to experience it in years to come. The recipe below can, however, be used to good effect with good quality fresh hake. Nowadays it is relatively easy to find, and the taste and texture is far superior to that of thawed frozen hake.  

 

Prepation time: ½ Hour.

Cooking time: 20 minutes.

Serves 4 adults.

Tastes best accompanied by a well-chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay (or a good Vinho Verde).

 

4 Skinless hake fillets; each about 250 g.

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

150 g Cake flour.

5 Medium-sized garlic cloves, roughly chopped.

6 Sprigs of broad leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped.

½ Cup of dry white wine.

1 Cup of fish stock.

2 Dozen baby clams (preferably live and in their shells; alternatively thawed frozen ones).

1 Cup frozen baby peas, thawed.

Crusty bread for dredging the sauce.

¼ Cup of olive oil for frying.

 

  • Rub the fish with the salt and pepper and leave in a cool place for ½  hour.
  • Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan. It must just be hot enough to sizzle when the fish is introduced.
  • Dust the fish lightly with the flour and cook for 1 minute on each side.
  • Transfer the fish to a warm plate.
  • Place the garlic and half the parsley in the pan. Cook, stirring all the while for a minute or so.
  • When the garlic becomes fragrant, add 2 tsp of flour and stir for another ½ minute.
  • Turn up the heat to moderate.
  • Add the wine and stock, and stir until the sauce starts thickening a little.
  • Return the fish to the pan. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Turn the fish over with a spatula.
  • Add the clams and peas and cover the pan.
  • Allow the dish to simmer for 5 minutes, shaking it occasionally.
  • After 5 minutes, check the state of play. The fish should flake easily, and the clams (if using live ones in shells) should have opened. If not cook for another minute or two.
  • Stir in the remaining parsley.
  • Taste the sauce and season to taste.
  • Serve in deepish plates or bowls, and use the bread to sop up the sauce.

 

"Agassiz does recommend that authors eat fish, because the phosphorous in it makes brains. But I cannot help you to a decision as to how much you should eat. Perhaps a couple of whales would be enough?” – Mark Twain.

Crayfish Thermidor: comforting seafood

“I can’t bring myself to drop a living crayfish in boiling water. What I do is to bring the pot to the boil, and then play a Justin Bieber CD. The crayfish climbs into the pot by himself.” – John Stewart.

My love affair with crustaceans began with “LM Prawns” in Mozanbique, and peaked when I was a student at the Military Academy in Saldanha. There I was able to catch my own Cape Crayfish (Jasus Lalandii) every weekend during the open season. Ready access to lots of crayfish allowed me the luxury of experimenting with various recipes and techniques. Notwithstanding an occasional allergic reaction to them (fortunately nothing a few anti-histamine tablets can’t fix) I still enjoy them whenever I can.

Salt water crayfish resembleoutsized prawns, as they lack the prominent pincers of lobsters, langoustines and crawfish. There are four well-known species: the Mediterranean “Spiny Lobster”, the Cape “Rock Lobster”, the smallish “East Coast lobster” and the huge Indo-Pacific “Blue Crayfish”. In summer, South Africans go gaga for crayfish simply barbecued, basted with lemon and garlic butter, but now that winter is upon us the traditional “Crayfish Thermidor” is coming into its own. Here is how I make it:

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 4.

Tastes best with a crisp Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc

4 Whole medium crayfish,

2 Lemons, halved.

1 Onion, quartered.

2 Tbsp spring onions

1 Bouquet garni, consisting of thyme, bay leaves, sage and parsley tied together with a string.

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp flour

¼ Cup dry white wine

2 Cups milk

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped

5 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

2 Tsp parsley, finely chopped

  • Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the lemons, onion and bouquet garni.
  • Add the lobster to the boiling water and cook for 8 to 12 minutes.
  •  Remove the lobster from the water and place in a bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking process.
  • In a sauce pan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, creating a white roux.
  • Add the spring onions and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add the wine and milk while stirring all the while.
  • Once the sauce reaches boiling point, reduce the heat to a slow simmer.
  • Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. This sauce will be thicker than a normal Béchamel because it will be used as a filling.
  • Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
  • Remove the sauce from the stove and stir in the mustard and tarragon.
  • Remove the lobster from the water and split them in half.
  • Remove the tail meat from the shells and scrape the green and brown “miang” from the carapaces.
  • Dice the tail meat and fold it into the roux.
  • Stir in half the cheese and re-season if necessary.
  • Spoon the crayfish mixture into the lobster tail shells.
  • Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the lobster.
  • Place the filled lobster on a baking sheet and place in the oven.
  • Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
  • Lay the lobster halves on top on a plate and garnish with parsley.

Serve with your favourite tangy salad and new potatoes.

“Time will tell, the lobster said when they assured him that he would turn red if he fell into the boiler.” – Edward Lear.

Catch of a lifetime

Corvina Ceviche at Donde Augusto

Elouise mussels in...

Even a band on the run makes time for fish & chips!

The crab we eat today swam last night in Chesapeake Bay

Maryland Crab cakes

 

“The crab that walks too far falls into the pot.” – Haitian proverb.

 

This is actually a very simple dish to prepare, provided one has access to the right ingredients. While the basic recipe is fairly standard, I am one of those who, like Madame Benoit, believe that a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation. My method entails the following:

 

Preparation time: 2 hours.

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 4 adults as a main course, or 6 – 8 as an hors d’oeuvre.

Tastes best accompanied by a well-chilled Portuguese Vinho Verde or an unwooded Chardonnay.

 

500 g Flaked crab meat – ideally blue swimming crab; alternatively mangrove crab.

1 Cup cracker crumbs - I prefer Tuc, but Cream Crackers or Saltines will do too.

1 Cup fresh bread crumbs.

2 Eggs.

1 Teaspoon Dijon mustard.

1/2 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce.

1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice.

1/4 Teaspoon Salt.

1 Teaspoon Fish Spice.

30 g Unsalted butter.

100 ml Olive Oil.

8 Lemon wedges & parsley sprigs for garnish.  

 

• Whisk all the ingredients, except the crab meat, crumbs, butter, oil & garnish in a large bowl until it becomes a smooth emulsion.

• Gently fold in the cracker crumbs and crab meat.

• Leave the contents in a fridge for at least 1 1/2 hours.

• Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy-based frying pan.

• Form 8 small or 4 large cakes and roll in the bread crumbs. (Small is easier to handle).

• Fry the cakes until golden brown (ca. 5 minutes) on each side. Remember that the mixture is extremely soft and moist - drop it gently into the hot oil and butter.

• DO NOT attempt to drain first - the cakes are delicate and will stick to the paper towel. Rather lift with an egg lifter and spoon and "drip dry" before placing the cakes directly onto the plates in which they will be served.

• Squeeze with lemon and add salt and Cayenne pepper to taste and enjoy piping hot.

 

“Man who fishes in another man’s well often catches crabs.” – Chinese proverb.

 

English Pub-style Fish & Chips

"Venture a sprat to catch a mackerel." - Raymond Ackerman

The three keys to making fish and chips successfully are: getting the batter in which you fry the fish right, deep frying in the right medium and making chips that are crispy, rather than “slap” (limp). As far as the first point is concerned, I like using beer batter because it is tasty and light, yet very crispy. Through trial and error, I have also realised that fat (“drippings” in UK parlance) produces nicer results than oil. Lastly, the trick with chips is to fry it twice; first at medium-high heat to cook the inside and then at very high heat to achieve a crispy exterior. Here is how I do it:

 

Prepation time: 25 minutes.

Cooking time: 25 minutes.

Serves 4 adults.

Tastes best accompanied by either a crisp, well-chilled white wine or a pint of dry apple cider.

 

1 kg Hake filets (preferably fresh, unfrozen fish). Kabeljou, Cape Salmon or any firm white line fish works well too.

6 Large potatoes, peeled.

750 ml Frying fat, melted.

340 ml Lager beer.

1 Cup flour.

Extra flour for dusting the fish.

1 Teaspoon salt.

 2 Lemons, cut into wedges.

Salt and white pepper for seasoning.

 

  •  Cut the potatoes into chunky chips. Dry and wrap in a cloth.
  • Heat half the fat in a deep fryer, fat bath or large pot to around 1500 C.
  • Meanwhile, make the batter the way you would make a white sauce: first mixing the flour and salt and then adding the beer gradually while beating continuously.
  • When the fat is ready, put the chips in a frying basket and plunge them into the fat.
  • Fry until they start browning, then lift them out and strain them.
  • Re-heat the fat.
  • Dust the fish filets with flour, then roll them in the batter until totally coated in it.
  • Fry the filets in two batches. Do not use a basket, as the batter will seep through the mesh and stick to it.
  • When crispy and brown, remove the fish and drain on kitchen paper.
  • Scoop out any bits of chip or batter that may have been left behind in the fat bath.
  • Re-heat the fat until smoking hot (around 1700 C).
  • Pop the chips back in to brown and crisp up.
  • Serve as quickly as possible, with the lemon wedges (and perhaps tartare sauce) on the side.     

 

“The great British contribution to world cuisine is the chip.” – John Cleese.

 

Mussels Marinara: hasty but tasty

“Her fingers moved among barnacles and mussels, blue-black, sharp-edged. Neon red starfish were limp sea slugs on the rocks, surrounded by bouquets of stinging anemones and purple bursts of spiny sea urchins.” – Janet Fitch.

 

Black (rock) mussels are among our tastiest sea foods, but need to be handled with the greatest of care. Because they filter particles from the surrounding sea water, they collect and retain pollutants like effluent and the deadly “red tide” algae in their flesh. Rather be safe than sorry: call the Red Tide Alert desk in Cape Town (021) 4394380 or (021) 4023368 before harvesting and eating mussels. If it is safe to collect mussels in your vicinity, only pick mussels near the low-water mark (i.e. that have been continually submerged). Alternatively, simply buy frozen mussels – the New Zealand Greenback is particularly tasty.

To prepare fresh mussels for cooking, wash them in cold fresh water to remove exterior sand. Discard any mussels that are not completely closed or with broken shells. Scrub them with a strong brush to remove barnacles and pull out the beard. Finally, leave them immersed in fresh water for half an hour. Fresh water irritates them, and causes them to eject any sand trapped inside the shells. They are now ready for use in a number of delicious dishes, including the Cinderella of mussel stews, Cozze Marinara.

 

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled dry Rosé

 

4 Portions hot cooked linguine

1 kg Black mussels, cleaned (preferably live, but frozen mussels work well too)

425 g Tinned Italian tomatoes, chopped and with their juice

3 Garlic cloves, finely chopped

300ml Dry red wine

3 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Fresh basil leaves for garnish

1 Crusty bread (baguette or panini)

 

  • Place the mussels in a heavy saucepan and add the tomatoes, oil, wine, garlic, and seasoning.
  • Bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  • The mussels are done when the shells open (discard any that remain shut).
  • If using frozen mussels, cook until completely heated through.
  • Serve over the linguine and garnish with the basil.
  • Accompany with a green salad and crusty bread to sop up the juice.

 

“The first man gets the mussel; the second man the shell.” – Andrew Carnegie.

 

Ceviche: Load shedding? What load shedding?

"In Mexico we have a word for sushi: "bait"! - Pepe Simon.

With rolling blackouts once again a part of our daily routine, people are casting around for meals than can be prepared sans electricity. Here is a real winner: perfect for summer lunches and cooked with lemon juice, not electricity. Ceviche is a very simple dish to prepare, provided one has access to firm, fresh fish. For those of us not blessed with access to Lenguado or Congrio, Kingklip, Kob, Rock Cod, Dorado or Kingfish will do the trick almost as well. Salmon is also suitable, and I quite enjoy the combination of the rich fish and the sharpness of the lemon juice.

 

 Preparation time: ½  hour.

"Cooking time": 4 hours

Serves 4 adults.

Tastes best accompanied by a well-chilled Portuguese vinho verde or an unwooded Chardonnay.

 

800 g Fish – any of the species listed above.

4 Cups of lemon juice.

1 Large, chopped onion.

½ Cup of cilantro (coriander leaf)

1 Tablespoon of chopped parsley.

Salt and black pepper for seasoning.

 

  • Prepare the marinade by mixing the lemon juice, onion, cilantro and parsley.   
  • Fillet and skin the fish, and slice finely.
  • Season quite heavily with salt, pepper and fish spice.
  • Place the fish in a deep, non-metallic bowl and immerse in the marinade.
  • Allow to rest in a refrigerator for at least 4 hours (maximum 8 hours).
  • When cooked serve the ceviche on its own as a starter, or as a main course with potato salad and/or curried bean salad.

 

An onion can make you cry, but there is no vegetable known to man that can make you laugh. - Will Rogers.

 

Fish Cakes: Seafood Cinderellas

“Our tradition is that of the first man who sneaked away to the creek when the tribe did not really need fish.” – Roderick Haig-Brown.

Like many South Africans, I grew up under the impression that fish cakes were just a means of getting rid of unwanted leftover fish. I have subsequently discovered that they are a delicacy in their own right, if the cook gets a few things right. First and foremost, the approach: the fish cakes are a treat, not a chore. Secondly, the best possible ingredients must be used. Thirdly and finally: serve them fresh and hot.

Making fish cakes is as much about the technique as about the recipe. The good news is that once you've mastered it, you can make crab cakes, prawn cakes or faux croquettes in exactly the same way! Here is how I do it:

Prepation time: 20 minutes.

Cooking time: 10 minutes.

Serves 4 adults as a main course.

Tastes best accompanied by a well-chilled Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.

 

500 g Cooked flaky white fish (Hake, Gurnard or any of the red line fish will do).

300 g Potatoes, boiled and mashed.

½  Cup grated onion.

2 Eggs.

3 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley.

2 Cups toasted bread crumbs.

1 Teaspoon of salt.

A pinch of nutmeg.

Freshly ground black pepper.

1 Cup sunflower or rapeseed oil.

 

  • Flake the fish and remove any remaining bones or skin.
  • Combine with the potatoes, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg and eggs in a glass bowl. Using a spatula, mix well.
  • Place the crumbs in a deep, round bowl.
  • Shape the mixture into patties of around 10 cm diameter by 1.5 cm thick with your hands, and roll in the crumbs.
  • Flatten the cakes slightly after coating them.
  • Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan.
  • Fry the cakes for about 5 minutes per side.
  • Drain the cakes on paper towel, and keep warm.
  • Serve them with tartar sauce, lemon wedges and chips or baked potatoes. 

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