September 24th is a national holiday in South Africa, Heritage Day. I’ve been on a mission over the past few years to prove to people that food should be a key part of our Arts and Culture department. Every year Heritage Day comes and goes and no one ever mentions food! As part of my contribution I’ve decided to post a South African recipe every day.
This recipe is for Smoorsnoek, an old recipe borrowed by Afrikaners from the Cape Malay slaves. The tell tale giveaway to work out if a dish is Cape Malay in origin is the use of chillies and savoury flavours with sweet elements. Snoek is the Dutch name for a fish they have in their fresh waters in the Netherlands but which South Africans have borrowed to name a Southern Hemisphere fish known as snake mackerel or barracouta (not to be confused with the barracuda fish). Apparently when the Dutch settlers landed on our shores they noticed the fish and named it “sea snoek” as it resembled the fish they have back home.
Snoek is a very oily fish and has many bones but the bones are quite large and fall away once the fish is cooked. It is usually sold smoked or heavily salted. Growing up in the Township we had it in small salted squares which we ate with vetkoek/magwinya. Apparently during World War 2 loads of it was shipped in cans to Britain to help with the lack of food but the British weren’t too keen on its taste and texture and so it didn’t become popular. Their loss!
I used to serve this as a starter in a ramekin with some cheese and cream cheese piped on top and I would serve it with some Melba toast and chutney on the side. Traditionally it’s eaten the way it is with plain rice and apricot chutney.
This recipe uses smoked Snoek. It does take a little bit of time as you have to pick the flesh off the bones first. I use my fingers as I find it gets more fish off but you can use a fork and pull the fish back.
60ml Extra Virgin olive oil
150g red onion, chopped
50g spring onions, chopped
500g smoked snook, steamed and shredded
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 large red chilli, chopped
410g fresh or frozen peas
1. Heat the oil in a pan and once hot throw in your onions. Saute them until soft and translucent. Add the peas and stir whilst cooking them for another 5 minutes.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and reduce the heat, cook for about 10 minutes to melt the sugar. If you cook it for too long the snoek tends to get overcooked and dry.
You can also serve it warm with rice and chutney.