Being a WWF-Sassi ambassador, I felt it would just be right to start off with a nice old favourite. Yellowtail is safely green-listed and it is just amazing with locally foraged samphire and seaweed.
By John Grundlingh
LET’S TALK ABOUT YELLOWTAIL
Appearance: This is a cylindrical fish with a narrow head and large eyes. It is most recognisable by its bright yellow forked tail, a sharp contrast to the rest of the fish which is grey. Its tall, rounded, crested dorsal fin also boasts yellow tints.
Habitat & behaviour: Unlike most other school fish, yellowtail do not swim in family groups. Rather, they make their way along with other fish going in the same direction. It is not uncommon for members to swap groups as they pass each other by. Every two years, during the winter months, all mature yellowtail disappear. No one knows yet what causes it or where they go to, but they are well known for unpredictable migrations.
Diet: Yellowtail feed along the seabed on crustaceans and other smaller fish. The young easily manage to filter plankton and invertebrates from the water.
Usage: They are incredibly fertile and reach fertility after a mere 2 – 3 years, making them a resilient and sustainable food fish. It has a mild delicate flavour and firm texture, making it tasty, easy to cook with and no one is exactly the same, making it a taste adventure of sorts. It can be smoked, baked, fried or combined into many appetising dishes and it is also one of my favourite fishes to braai!
WHAT IS SAMPHIRE?
This sea-hardy veg was named after the patron saint of fishermen, Saint Pierre, because it grows in rocky salt-sprayed regions along the sea coast of northern Europe or in its coastal marsh areas. It is colloquially, and somewhat romantically, referred to as ‘a mermaid’s kiss’. It looks kind of like baby asparagus with a similar texture and lovely, bright green stalks. It can have rather an unpleasant smell and can often be too salty. Be sure to rinse it and cook it slightly before eating to get the most out of the distinct fresh and crisp flavour that lies beneath.
Braaied yellowtail with samphire and seaweed
SERVES 4-6 // COOKING TIME 1½ hours
1 x 600 mm long yellowtail, whole
100 ml olive oil
20g ginger, plus extra to taste, grated
Lemon and herb salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Handful coriander, roughly chopped
Handful dill, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Handful samphire, locally foraged (or salted asparagus if you can’t find this)
Seaweed, locally foraged, to serve
1. Light your fire. I like to use rooikrans wood in a dark pit for a stable heat and long-lasting coals.
2. Clean your grid well otherwise your yellowtail will stick to it.
3. Clean and butterfly the fish, using a fillet knife over the fillets and a meat knife when cutting through the head. Then clean the inside. You can also ask you local fishery to clean and butterfly it for you.
4. Combine the olive oil, juice of 2 lemons, zest of 1 lemon and the ginger. Rub all over the yellowtail and season with lemon and herb salt and black pepper.
5. Place the grid 25 cm above the coals. They should be hot enough that you can’t hold your hand over them at grid level for more than 2 seconds. Fish always needs to be braaied hot and fast to prevent it from drying out.
6. Lay the fish down on the grid, skin side down, folded open. Braai until the thicker fillets turn pale pink and the thinner pieces turn white, about 15 minutes.
7. Flip the grid to seal the flesh side to lock in the moisture and flavour, about 3 minutes.
8. Flip back so that it is skin side down once again. Brush the flesh with the leftover rub and sprinkle with half of the coriander and dill.
9. Remove the fish from the grid. I like to open it on the skin side, cover with a chopping board, flip and remove the grid with the fish sitting nicely on its serving board.
10. Halve the remaining lemons and pop them onto the braai for a few minutes.
11. Garnish the serving board with coriander, dill and braaied lemons.
12. In a frying pan over the coals, melt the butter with the garlic, and some extra grated ginger. Add the samphire and toss through until fully coated, about 5 minutes. Add this to the board, drizzling the butter sauce over everything.
13. Cut the seaweed in bite-sized pieces and sprinkle over the fish.
14. Serve immediately with a white wine.