If Jan tells you he is going to braai Snoek, you definitely stand in the queue for an invite – in fact, you bribe him with a bottle of good Merlot to get an invite!
Recently Fredo and Janey were at one of these Snoek braais, along with a few old timers of the Stilbaai community which made us feel like spring chickens. Do not get us wrong, we have a huge amount of respect for those who were around the table. All around us definitely had the X factor – meaning they had X-perience and we recognized them as our elders and people very much respected by us.
[divider]Snoek braai at Jan’s place is something to behold and if you arrive at 12:00, you are lucky to get away by 6. Proceedings get underway when everyone has something in the hand to drink – only then does Jan consider lighting a fire. This is done with his gas contraption that is driving the fire lighter manufacturers mad! This contraption is simply placed under the wood, the gas is opened and as quickly as you can say ‘flick your Bic’ the flames rise up.
Not that this helps to streamline the process. Even when some of us with growling tummies considered that the coals must be ready, Jan, with strong support from Kielie Kielblock, son of the famous South African writer Karl Kielblock, considered ‘putting a few pieces of wood on the fire just to make sure.’
Eventually, though, Jan takes a Snoek large enough to feed and army out of the deepfreeze. This monster was acquired from ‘a very reliable supplier’ and great care is taken to ensure that the Snoek will not be ‘pap’ – an Afrikaans word meaning that the fish must not be soft, which will not be good.
[divider]The Snoek is now closed and Jan waits for it to start defrosting so he could squeeze it open so it is flat – with the skin on one side and the meat on the other. Fredo supposes that the main reason for the eternal process of placing more wood on the fire must be the fear that there will not be enough coals, which will be criminal if you rate yourself as a good braaier. And very definitely, also to allow time for those glasses to be recharged eternally as we sit in a row on both sides of the table. We talk about the latest Zuma scandals, the weather, grandchildren and all those nice trips to Hentiesbaai, Etosha, and Hondeklipbaai and to places around the beautiful countryside of South Africa which have been undertaken and is worthwhile repeating. Each one had his favourite glass and particular drink and you look after yourself – no one will do it for you.
[divider]During this Kielie tells us that on a recent trip of about two months around the country it was his desire to visit the beautiful Natal Midlands. When he got there, however, it rained endlessly day in and day out. ‘So we saw the Midlands in the pubs – never knew there were so many pubs in this part of the world and they are all special,’ he said. There you have it – if you get stuck in the rain in the Natal Midlands – there is something you can do.
By now it was time to recharge the glasses and witness how Jan prepares the Snoek which we believed will at last make it to the fire. First the grid is lined with tinfoil and the Snoek is placed skin down on the grid. Jan made a basting of lemon juice and butter and produced his paint brush to paint a thin layer on the meat side. The grid is closed, and, after another discussion on the state of the fire, finally the Snoek goes on. Important – the meat side faces the coals and the tinfoil is at the top.
Jan throws his eagle eye over the Snoek and declares that when the meat looks red – the Snoek is fine, not ‘pap.’ What happens when at this stage you are not sure that the Snoek is ok?, we asked. “You raid the freezer to find tjops and sausage,” replied Jan.
Now it was time to wait for things to happen, with well stocked glasses we watched the Snoek sizzling for a while. After two inspections Jan turns over the Snoek. The meat is now on the top and golden brown, the skin at the bottom. The basting continues and now, we were told, the Snoek is now cooking on the skin in the juice. Stewing in its own juice, as some would say.
It takes time, our tummies were by now growling. Lorainne produces bruschetta with a great cheese and bacon topping. It saves out lives and the recharging now takes place with new energy.
[divider]Finally a most fantastic Snoek comes off the fire! Jan has his own way of dividing the Snoek, with every piece having its own name. By doing this he assured us that those long Snoek bones come lose and can easily be pulled out, with only the nicest and juiciest parts remaining.
We gathered around the table in the kitchen and enjoyed the warmth of the company.
The Snoek is served with potatoes and paw-paw, which brings a unique sweetness to the dish. We indulge in the Snoek, and lick our fingers at the end. In the end the monster proved too much for us. And we have to leave space for Lorainne’s lovely dessert.
And so, with a lovely Amarula and coffee we washed down the meal. It goes on till late afternoon. We came home and dropped on the coach. After that you need a rest!