What to do in the middle of winter when you have the day off, the sky is deep blue and the sun just won’t quit? You take a quiet drive along the coast to remind yourself that you live at the ocean, with all it has to offer.
It’s easy to become complacent in the cold, to embrace the rut and cuddle up in your comfort zone, but when Mother Nature gives you a sneak peak at spring, you ditch the woolly mittens and grab it with both hands. The perfect opportunity to take advantage of the Cape’s bounty sans the usual tourists, traffic and torrential downpour.
We had seafood in the sun with breaking waves, the smell of the ocean and a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The Yellowtail was good and like the wine, it was local, caught by the very boats bobbing in the harbour across the way.
I feel for local fishermen, right now they’re having a rough time of it. The department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has managed to screw up their fishing quotas and licenses, putting the entire industry in jeopardy. Add to that the threat to marine life due to over fishing and their prospects don’t look good.
Inspired by my unseasonal maritime manoeuvres, I returned home eager to support this floundering industry. I’d had the vague concept of a wasabi sauce swimming around in my head and a fresh piece of local fish was just the thing to reel it in.
The sauce was a combination of cream, horse radish (I was out of wasabi) and mustard. The result was delectably tangy and when served cold, the perfect alternative to mayonnaise. But it needed more depth to carry the warm dish I had in mind, so I added caramelised leeks. Now I just needed the right fish to serve with it.
I try to buy sustainably and stay as local as possible and to this end I do my seafood shopping at Ocean Jewels. She’s not only a good friend, but a stickler for quality and a devout participant of SASSI (The South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative). Julie is my sustainability conscience and over the years has personally schooled (bullied) me in the art of cooking seafood. It’s no surprise then that when it comes to choosing fish, I turn to my trusted fishmonger for advice. She suggested Angelfish or Trout – I went for both!
Angelfish is relatively cheap, local, sustainable and SASSI green listed. It’s a bycatch of deep water hake trawled off the coast of the Western Cape and because there’s no targeted fishery for this species, stocks are considered to be healthy. When buying, make sure the raw fish is slightly pink and firm of texture.
Rainbow trout is an alien species introduced to South Africa about 100 years ago and now farmed in either re-circulating water systems or in cages in dams. This fish farming still poses certain ecological risks, but the industry in the Western Cape in particular has made huge strides towards improving their practices and as such, SASSI recommends supporting these local farmers as a preferred option when buying this green listed fish.
Fish is an extremely healthy source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. White fish, like angelfish, has a lower fat content whereas the trout is more oily. Served with wilted baby spinach or broccoli puree in a creamy moat of leeks and tangy sauce, this is LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) eating at its best. Alternately, BYOC (Bring Your Own Carbs) and tuck in.
HORSERADISH AND LEEK CREAM SAUCE
Makes 1½ cups
• 1 C pouring cream
• ¼ t minced garlic
• 1 t Dijon mustard
• 1 t Coleman’s hot English mustard powder
• 2 t creamed horseradish (or fresh)
• 4 small leeks, sliced
• Salt and pepper
• 2 t butter
• 1 t olive oil
• Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
1. Brown the leaks in the olive oil and butter in a small pan over medium heat. Set aside.
2. In a saucepan, heat the cream but don’t let it boil. Add the mustards, horseradish, garlic and stir to combine. Stirring constantly, cook until the sauce has heated through and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon and serve warm with the fish dishes below or cold as an alternative to mayonnaise.
ANGELFISH WITH WILTED SPINACH AND HORSERADISH AND LEEK CREAM SAUCE
• 2 T butter
• 200g baby spinach
• Salt and pepper (black and white)
• 1 t olive oil
• 800g angelfish, skinned and filleted
• ½ t chilli flakes, or to taste
• Chives, whole and chopped to garnish
1. Melt one tablespoon of butter in a pan set over medium heat and add the baby spinach. Cook for a few minutes, stirring every now and then, until completely wilted. Season well with salt and white pepper and set aside.
2. Place a large pan on medium-high heat and add the remaining butter and olive oil. Place the angelfish fillets in the pan once the butter has stopped bubbling. Cook for three minutes and sprinkle with chilli, salt and black pepper before flipping. Take off the heat and leave the other side to cook in the pan for another three minutes. Add more chilli flakes and seasoning.
3. Serve the angelfish fillets on a bed of wilted spinach, in a pool of horseradish and leek cream sauce. Garnish with chives.
TROUT WITH BROCCOLI PUREE AND HORSERADISH AND LEEK CREAM SAUCE
• 350g broccoli florets or 1 medium head, thick stems removed
• 3 T butter
• ½ cup thick cream
• Salt and pepper
• 1 t olive oil
• 600g trout, filleted (skinning optional)
• Flat-leaf parsley, chopped to garnish
1. Cook the broccoli in salted boiling water until just done – a butter knife should pierce the vegetable easily. Drain and puree in a food processor along with two tablespoons of butter. Add the cream and season well before pulsing to combine. Set aside.
2. Melt the remaining butter and olive oil in a pan set over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, cook the trout for three minutes on each side – skin side first if you’ve opted to leave it on.
3. Serve the trout on a bed of broccoli puree swimming in the horseradish and leek cream sauce. Garnish with parsley.
Tips for cooking fish:
1. Always cook the side you want to present first.
2. To check if it’s done, pierce the flesh with the tip of a sharp knife and pull the flakes aside — the flesh should be opaque (unless it’s salmon, trout or tuna which could be left underdone).
3. Julie’s Top Ten Tips for cooking fresh fish.