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January 17, 2011

Here, Snoekums

My dad does the best snoek braai, in good old Cape Malay style. He melts together butter and apricot jam and and uses this mixture to baste the opened slightly smoked snoek on a braai (or barbeque, grid-over-hot coals, whatever) until it is just cooked. You only need to turn it once. And you need to serve it on a hot day, when the sun is high, and the pool is in use. A chilled, barrel- fermented Chardonnay is also obligatory.I serve the fish with Indian-ish accompaniments like cauliflower and potatoes cooked with cumin and coriander.

I do love India for adding spice to life. And jangly decorations with glittering elephants, of course.

Sorry Dad but: the best part about a snoek braai for me is in the left overs, and not in the actual meal. Cold smoked snoek flakes so loverly. You can add spice to it, you can make a dip from it, you create delicious omelettes and quiches and tarts. You can make snoek pate and flat breads and that's Sunday dinner, sorted.

Smoked Snoek pâté

Adapted from the recipe for Silwood Snoek Pate in the timeless classic The Complete South African Fish and Seafood Cookbook by Alicia Wilkinson. Most of the pages of this  book are available for preview at google books but it's worth buying just for the comprehensive guide at the back that explains all the types of fish in our waters, gives their other names (of which there are a myriad), their locations, characteristics and suitable cooking methods. Quite handy indeed.

  • half a left-over smoked snoek from the braai
  • 30ml lemon juice
  • 1 handful parsley, finely chopped
  • small bunch chives, finely snipped
  • 100ml fresh cream ( or add more if your half- snoek happens to be quite big)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Skin the fish and starting from one end, pick off the meat and carefully pick out every single bone (the problem with snoek is that they are spindly things and likely induce a need for the Heimlich manoeuvre at the dinner table which is something that we try to avoid as it is not very classy at all).
  2. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz like crazy. The special thing about this pate is it's light and smooth texture. Add a little more cream if you want it a bit smoother. Season to taste. 
  3. Place in ramekins or a pretty crock and refrigerate for at least two hours to firm up. Serve with flat breads and a sprig of parsley.
* If you don't have a food processor or care for one- lightly flake the snoek with a fork, and add less cream and butter, and maybe some crunchy bits like tiny celery cubes or cucumber cubes. The result won't really be a pate- but it will still fit on a cracker and taste scrumptious. 

Flat breads

These bad boys are easy to make, and impressive. The recipe is adapted from an article by Matt Preston in Delicious Magazine. I like the bread. But I don't understand how someone can Braai with a necktie on (quizzed expression on face).

He makes his flatbreads on his 'barbeque'- a gas affair that doesn't hint at flames or coals. I don't really see the point so I make mine on my floured stove surface or under a hot grill where they pop up a bit like pitas. Which is cool. 

  • 500g cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 140ml milk
  • 65ml olive oil
  • 2.5ml salt
  • lukewarm water
  1. Sieve flour, baking powder and salt together. Add olive oil, milk  and enough lukewarm water to make a nice stretchy dough. 
  2. Knead for about 8 - 10 minutes until pliable and elastic. Place aside in an oiled bowl to rest for at least forty minutes. 
  3. I have one of those flat what-you-mcall-it? stovetops. Man. The ones that look glassy and get red rings under to show they're hot. Anyway. If you have one of these, heat it up, if you don't think your stove plate can deal with getting flour on it, then heat up a plain frying pan. 
  4. Break off balls of dough the size of a gobstopper (Don't you hate how recipes always say walnut-sized balls? Like we all have walnut trees in our gardens to measure by.) and roll them out really thinly. Now dust your stove plate with flour and place the thinly rolled dough on top. You'll see it go all funky and get bubbly. Thats what we like. Don't fret if the flour burns, it's yum and tastes like it came off a grill in North Africa somewhere ( I like to imagine). Turn until browned on both sides.Set aside. Before serving, heat up in the oven for a bit if you fancy. 
  5. Break of double- sized chunks of dough and roll them out to about a 1/2 cm thickness. Pop on a baking tray dusted with flour and place under your hell- hot grill, only about 8 cm or so from the top. 
  6. Don't go away (ahem, yes, I did and returned in two minutes to a kitchen filled with acrid- smelling smoke). The dough will puff up and brown in a minute or two, turn over with tongs and allow the other side to brown. That's all folks. 

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