For me, there is nothing more special than a fish braai. I get such nostalgia when I prepare fish for the braai because it takes me back to childhood holidays spent fishing on the beach in Keurbooms. In the late afternoon, little Tori and her poppa would head down to the secluded beach in front of our log cabin and throw our lines out into the frothy big blue waves. While we largely caught and released a ton of rays and sand sharks, some special occasions resulted in the perfect catch: a delicately fleshy Geelbek or a yummy fresh Elf. Those early evenings on the beach with my dad are irreplaceable memories to me.
While my poppa taught me how to fish off the beach, it was my momma who taught me how to prepare the perfect “vis braai”. Extra hot wood coals, a perfectly scaled and gutted fish smothered in lemon, butter, garlic and herbs. Sheer perfection.
And so it was, the happiest memories of my childhood were formed. Our little family, surrounded by the indigenous forests of the Western Cape as the sun set. My belly full of fish as my mum told stories around the fire, complemented by the call of the Southern Boubou and the distant ocean.
1 kg sustainably sourced white fish, butterflied (see my note at the end of this recipe). In my experience, the yummiest fish on the braai are fish with a nice firm flesh. My ultimate fish on the braai is Yellowtail. Snoek is also amazing...provided you can handle all the bones
A dash of olive oil (+/- a tablespoon)
250 -300 grams of butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped
2 lemons, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
This is a messy method, so be prepared to get your hands dirty….
Prepare a big doubled over sheet of heavy duty tin foil. Mix your butter, garlic, parsley and oregano into a garlic herb butter
Lightly rub a bit of the garlic herb butter on the foil
Place the fish, skin side down, on the foil parcel
Place generous knobs of your garlic herb butter on the fleshy side of your fish
Season with salt and pepper
Place lemon slices on top of the butter, making sure the fish is generously covered
Fold up the edges of the parcel, making sure there are no gaps to allow liquid to escape the parcel. To do this, fold the foil sides in an upwards direction
Place another piece of foil over the parcel, secure tightly to ensure there are no gaps from which steam can escape
Cook the fish on hot coals, for about 10-15 minutes (this will obviously depend on the thickness of your fish)
Serve immediately, using the delicious juices the fish cooked in as a lemon garlic butter sauce
Variations and notes
Get your fishmonger to gut and butterfly your fish for you. Honestly, de-boning and gutting a fish, while admirable, is not easy and the risk of leaving bones behind is not cool
One of the most unique things about SA is our beautiful ocean reserves. Crayfish, snoek, mussels and hake, once so central to dishes that highlight our South African heritage, are however quickly disappearing because of our unsustainable fishing practises. Next to climate change, our biggest environmental fight is over-fishing. Seriously. Look it up. With an ever growing population our oceans simply can’t cope with the demand and we as consumer need to be making better decisions when it comes to deciding what fish to put on our tables. Making sustainable decisions on the seafood we eat is so easy. All you need to do is check out the World Wildlife Fund Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative website (http://wwfsassi.co.za/) or download the WWF SASSI app on your android or apple device. Updated regularly, the SASSI list shows you which seafood you should and should not buy, based on its fisheries status in South Africa. Seafood on the green list is OK to eat, while seafood on the red list is an absolute no no and should not be bought. The app is super easy to use and will help you make the right decisions when choosing seafood.