Saturday 6 February 2010

Chilli Snoek Pâté: a taste of Hout Bay

Chilli Snoek Pâté: a taste of Hout Bay
Please admire the little double-walled amuse-bouche dish,
 from a bespoke set of dinnerware made for a famous Franschhoek
 restaurant by my uncle, master potter David Walters.
Few tastes capture Cape Town as delightfully as smoked snoek pâté.  When you visit Cape Town you will find this noble fish - an honoured staple for centuries - virtually everywhere you go along the coast.

You'll see fishing boats avalanching their silvery cargos of fresh snoek onto the quayside at little working harbours, you'll see it it vlekked (gutted and splayed) on drying frames, you'll see it sold in oaked-smoked fillets, you'll see smoorsnoek, and you'll see it sizzling over braai fires.   You're most likely, though, if you're a casual visitor to the city, to encounter it in the form of a salty, smoky pâté.

Today I spent a happy hour in the kitchen with my darling friend Claire (here from Jo'burg for the weekend), concocting our visisticated version of this dish. Claire was driven in a taxi from the airport to her brother's fabulous flat in Kalk Bay, and was inspired by a discussion she had with the driver and his wife. Just outside Muizenberg, they passed racks of golden snoek drying in the sun, and the conversation turned to recipes for preparing the fish.  The driver and his wife told Claire stories of  being put to work as children by their grandmothers: their task was to pound fresh red chillies and deboned salted snoek together in a mortar; the resulting paste was spread on bread.

After a walk on the beach this morning, and a sinful bockwurst roll at Muriel's Munchies, we  picked up a package of  oak-smoked snoek at Hout Bay harbour, gathered chillies, coriander and lemons on the way home and set to work producing snoek pâté, only better - with pounded chillies.

 Please do not be put off by the fact that this recipe contains a whole red chilli.  When you first taste it, you may be alarmed and think your mouth has caught fire.  But, given four hours in the fridge, this pâté mellows  and the chilli fades, leaving just a tingle.

You can pound these ingredients together with a mortar and pestle in the old-fashioned way, or use a food processor fitted with a metal blade. The important thing here is not to over-process the pâté: it should not be whizzed to a silken paste, but retain some texture.

Chilli Snoek Pâté: a Taste of Hout Bay

250 g oak-smoked snoek [or any similar smoked white fish]
1 red chilli, halved and deseeded
a big pinch of coarse salt
half a clove of fresh peeled garlic
½  tsp (5 ml) finely grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp (30 ml) soft butter
3 Tbsp (45 ml) crème fraîche
milled black pepper
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely chopped fresh coriander [cilantro]

Flake the fish into a small bowl and remove all bones. Put the chilli into a small mortar with the salt and garlic; pound to paste. If you don't have a mortar, finely chop the chilli and garlic and mash into a paste with the salt using the back of a spoon or a knife. Set aside.

Scrape the chilli and garlic paste into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the flaked fish and all remaining ingredients. Pulse lightly to combine without pulverising the fish. Tip the mixture into a little bowl and refrigerate for three to four hours.

Serve with sliced wholewheat seed loaf or crackers.

Serves 6 as an appetiser or dip.

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Adele said...

Snoek is defenitely one of the things I miss most from home. I visited South Africa last year with my Australian husband, and we took him to Snoekies in Hout Bay. We had the most delicious lunch sitting on the rocks, fighting off the seagulls. It makes me homesick just thinking of it! The recipe looks delicious, I'll save it for our next home visit.

Nina Timm said...

I must tell you, this is my favorite way of enjoying the time yu eat the pate...all the bones have been removed and you can just dig in!!!!

Jeanne @ Cooksister! said...

I am deeply in love with snoek pate - I make sure I gorge on it every time I go home! Yours looks sublime....

and Nina - you'd think so, hey... but over Christmas we bought soe Delish (a local deli, I think?) snoek pate in St Francis and a few hours later found my brother, his wife and I on the deck, trying to remove a snoek bone stuck near his tonsils with a pair of my sterilised eyebrow tweezers while the rest of the family sat at the lunch table in stunned silence. Only in my family!! ;-)

browniegirl said...

Ooooooh I just love snoek pate, can never resist the stuff if I have it. Homemade is best. I think your chilli one is about to become my favourite favourite!! And I have to say, the first thing I did admire on your page as it opened was that most delightful little bowl. It is just too gorgeous!! Well done. I shall have to look a bit deeper into your achives now that I have "discovered" you hehe. xxx

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you for the kind comments my friends. Am amazed at how this recipe brings out such nostalgia for South Africa... Jeanne, the thought of your eyebrow tweezers being used for snoek-bone extraction is just priceless. Browniegirl: I've just gone to your blog (lovely!) and left a message for you about your Twitter link, not knowing that you had left this message here! Welcome and I hope you enjoy digging around the archives!

browniegirl said...

Thanx so much for the visit and lovely comment. Appreciate it. Ummmmm where do I find this twitter link that is not working?? LOL....Im not so good with all the linking and networking stuff but Im not too old to learn :o) xx