Holy mackerel and other minnows of the deep

2010-10-22 14:49

Kingfish, kingklip and king prawns have, due to ­environmental concerns, been usurped by the ­lesser courtiers of the ocean as we all do our bit to save the ­biodiversity of our oceans.

These days, eating top-of-the-food chain marine predators such as tuna and salmon is a no-no – unless it’s from approved sources – but that’s no reason to be glum. In South Africa, we have delicious certified hake to eat as well as mackerel and sardines. While prawns may be off the menu, oysters and squid are green for go. Oysters are full of zinc, which is good for fertility, so it’s little surprise that Casanova, according to Wikipedia, ate 50 a day.

More than a billion of the planet’s 6.5 billion people rely on seafood for their primary source of protein, and the sea is home to more than a million species.

The health benefits of fish are well documented, but you can get just as many good-for-you omegas from mackerel as you can from salmon. Similarly, white fish helps control heart disease. You don’t have to eat kingklip; have hake or Cape Whiting instead.

Predator species carry far more mercury than fish lower down the food chain.

Famously, fish is brain food, no matter which species you eat, so with the exams around the corner for the young and the rest of us needing as much help as we can get to make it to Christmas, here is a trio of recipes that make use of plentiful, sustainable fish.

This easy recipe is taken from Sam and Sam Clark’s cookbook, Casa Moro. The pair is inspired by the flavours of Morocco.

» 4 hake steaks, 250g each
» 4 tablespoons plain flour
» 6 tablespoons olive oil
» Salt and pepper to season

» 2 garlic cloves
» 5cm piece of root ginger
» 2 limes (juiced) and
the zest of one
» 1 teaspoon of crushed cardamom seeds
» 2 tablespoons olive oil

Blend the garlic, ginger, lime juice, lime zest and cardamom seeds until they form a paste. Rub the hake steaks with the paste and drizzle with olive oil.

Leave the fish to marinade for four to eight hours. Before cooking, dry each steak with a piece of paper towel.

Season the flour well and then coat each piece of fish.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan.

When the oil is hot, put the fish into the pan and fry for five minutes on each side until cooked through.

Fish should flake easily when done. Serve with a green salad.

» This recipe serves four people

This recipe is one of Simone Ortega’s 1 080 Recipes – number 641 to be precise.

» 1.5kg spinach (coarse stalks removed)
» 100g butter
» 1.5kg sardines, cleaned and boned (ask the fishmonger to do it for you)
» 4 tablespoons olive oil
» 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
» Salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Wash the spinach and then cook with just the water still clinging to the leaves for about 10 minutes.

Squeeze as much water off as possible by pressing with the back of a spoon. Chop it up.

Meanwhile, melt most of the butter in a saucepan, add the spinach and cook for five minutes.

Season and set aside.

Put the fish skin side down on the work surface and divide the spinach among them.

Roll the fish up around the spinach and put in an oven-proof dish coated with oil.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs and the remaining butter over the rolled-up sardines and bake for 15 minutes.

Taken from Simone Ortega’s 1 080 Recipes.

Recently translated into English by her daughter, Ines Ortega, the book is a celebration of Spanish cuisine.


» 12 mackerel fillets
» 65g butter
» 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
» 1 tablespoon plain flour
» 500ml milk
» 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
» Juice of half a lemon
» 1 tablespoon parsley (chopped)
» Salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Put the mackerel fillets in a single layer on the bottom of a large oven-proof dish.

Make the mustard sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and continue stirring for two minutes. Gradually stir in the milk, then cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring continuously.

Once the sauce is thickened, remove it from the heat and add the mustard, lemon juice and salt to taste.

Pour the sauce over the mackerel fillets, sprinkle with the parsley and dot with some butter.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

» This recipe serves six people

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