What you need:
1 fresh snoek (when you buy your snoek, ask for it to be cleaned and for the head and tail to be cut off)
4 chopped garlic cloves
½ cup butter or olive oil
½ cup apricot jam
juice of 2 lemons
salt and pepper
1 tot soy sauce (optional)
2–4 tots white wine (optional)
dash of chilli sauce (optional)
What to do:
1. When starting the snoek braai process, wash the snoek under cold running water.
2. Now you need to dry the snoek. Do it in one of three ways:
-Hang it in a cool area with a draught blowing over it. The easiest way to do that is to put it in the hinged grid you will be braaing it in and hang that grid on a hook under a tree.
-Salt the snoek with coarse sea salt that will absorb all the water.
-Blot it with paper kitchen towel.
Whichever of these methods you use, do make sure that your snoek has some defence system against aerial attack by flies.
Using a small pot on the fire or on a stove, lightly fry the chopped garlic in the butter or oil. Then add the apricot jam and lemon juice. If you want to add some of the optional ingredients, do so now. Heat and stir until everything is melted and mixed.
If you salted the snoek in step 2, you now have to shake off all the coarse sea salt. Most of the big visible pieces will be shaken off but obviously some of the salt would have transferred onto the snoek so keep this in mind when adding extra salt in one of the next steps. This ‘pre-salting’ of snoek with coarse sea salt is loved by some, but not by all. You need to test whether it works for you.
A snoek should be braaied ‘open’. Smear the skin side of the snoek with oil so that it does not stick to the grid and then place it on the grid, skin side down. Grind salt and pepper onto the flesh side of the snoek and lightly pat it onto the meat.
There are two ways of braaing the snoek:
-Straight onto the grid. Coals will need to be slightly gentler as the skin might burn more easily on the direct heat. You definitely need to pay more attention in this method and make sure you don’t burn the fish. The skin side of the fish will end up slightly crisper and might be charred here and there, but you’re not going to eat that skin anyway.
-Foil on grid and fish on foil. Your coals can be hotter in this method as the foil protects the fish from getting burnt. Another advantage of doing it on foil is that you can fold up the sides of the foil, which saves any basting and sauce that runs off the fish. Fish braaied on foil is also easier to lift onto a serving tray without breaking.
Braai time: Whether you are using foil or whether the skin side went straight onto the grid, a snoek should be braaied for about 15 minutes in total. You can deviate slightly from this time depending on the heat of the coals, height of the grid and size of the snoek. Test whether the snoek is ready by inserting a fork in the thickest part and turning the fork slightly.
As soon as the flesh flakes, the snoek is ready.
-When braaing without tinfoil I braai for 3 minutes flesh side down and then the rest of the time with the skin side down.
-When braaing with foil I braai for 9 minutes skin side down, 3 minutes flesh side down (and during this time remove the foil from the skin side) and then a final 3 minutes skin side down to brown the skin.
Basting the snoek: Baste only when the flesh side is facing up. Use a brush or simply drip it onto the fish with a spoon. You can baste as often as you wish until all the basting is used. Should you find that you’d like to use more basting, then make more sauce next time.
- There is always a risk that the fish will stick to the grid, so gently shake whichever side of the grid is on top at any stage of the braai to loosen it from the meat.
- Serve the snoek skin side down, flesh side up.
- Dish up the snoek using a spatula or similar implement.
- Break rather than cut the snoek as cutting also cuts the bones into smaller pieces, which can get stuck in your throat. Normal snoek bones are quite large and you will find them easily.
Reprinted with permission of Pan Macmillan.
Jan Braai - Fireworks