June 27, 2013

Slinger Seabream

Being a fish biologist, I, Hannah, take it upon myself to eat only sustainable, pole caught fish from the artisanal fishermen. After returning home one night Lorien presented me with two, fresh from the sea fish, that his guardo had sold him. After some investigation and the brilliant FishBase (eveloped by a professor of mine), I discovered our catch: the slinger seabream, or Marreco, Chrysoblephus puniceus. This is a commonly caught commercial fish of significant importance to the people here, and the fishermen come in with this pinkish-silver, scaly fish on a regular basis.

The species itself is very prolific, quickly reaching sexual maturity, and releasing many small eggs in the summer months. It was still fall and our two fresh fish were larger than the 20cm length that this species matures at. Bingo! I've got a sustainable one. Enough fish nerd stuff:

The meat was easy to filet with a few pin bones that required a wrench to remove, but nothing too complex. The leptoid scales had already been removed so I can't comment on the ease with which you can remove them. The flesh was a pale pink that was not very firm to touch.

Once cooked the white meat was not too firm but held together well. The two fish lasted for three meals, not including leftover lunches and the stock that was made from bits and bobs of the skeleton. Our first night it went in some tinfoil with lemon, garlic and pepper. Done. The second night we made a fish potjie (think cast iron pot on fire with a layering system for the ingredients-a South African tradition):

Fish Potjie

1 onion, cut in rings
2 potatoes, cut in half-inch rounds
1 carrot, cut in bite size morssels
2 eggplants/aubergines, cut in half-inch rounds
2 tomatos, cut in wedges

2 T. oil, high heat tolerant
2 c. stock (fish or vegetable or Knorr soup mix works too)
1 t. salt
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T. Moroccan Ras el Hanout (A broad mix of 36 spices brought from Morocco)

(This does not need to be strict, a variety of vegetables can work in potjies)

The potjie needs to sit upon the flames for a while as the fire heats up on the Braai/BBQ, once it is hot to touch, add oil, it should be hot enough to shimmer but not smoke. Add the onions so that they may brown, stir as they cook, about 2 minutes. Layer on the potato rounds, then the carrots, then the eggplant/aubergine, lastly lay the tomatoes around the resulting mound of food you have created. Mix the warm stock, salt, spice, and garlic in a cup, then pour evenly over the mountain of veggies in you potjie.

Once replacing the hot, heavy lid your dinner should begin to speak to you, not just your stomach but the pot as well. Listen for a constant bubbling, but not a rapid bubble, think bubbles from a straw in a thick milkshake, rather than in a soda. After about 15 minutes, or once your densest veggies are al dente (in this case the potatoes), then we added the fish fillets to the top of the mound to steam, skin down. After about 8 minutes we removed the whole pot from the flames and let sit for 5 minutes while the table was set, and citronella candle lit. All it took after that was dishing up. Eating. Enjoying. Seconds. Then leftovers!

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