Outdoor entertaining is deliciously easy with these two simple recipes – one for grilled silver fish and the other a focaccia with olives.
Autumn is such a special time on the West Coast. The light is softer – an almost liquid gold over the landscape – while summer’s unrelenting Southeaster gale takes a bow. Wind still evenings coupled with the last few warm days mean that outdoor entertaining is not only possible – it’s perfection.
Taking the time to really enjoy my favourite season, I set up a table beneath the manitoka trees on the Wamakersvlei farm to make the most of dusk.
Instead of partaking both in a big lunch and heavy dinner, I prefer to combine the two and eat early, as the sun sets. A simple Mediterranean-inspired menu is easily planned, and cooking seafood over the coals brings a taste of the nearby ocean to my table.
Silver fish or silvers as they’re known here are plentiful and flavourful and lend themselves to be grilled in the oven or over open flame. Best when simply prepared, I love stuffing the cleaned fish with slices of lemon and sprigs of herbs – anything from rosemary to basil or oregano.
Herb-stuffed Silver Fish
Prep time: 20 mins / Cook time: 25 mins / Serves: 4
You will need:
- 3 to 4 fresh silver fish, gutted and scaled
- About 4 sprigs of fresh Italian parsley/rosemary/sweet basil/oregano, washed
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 3 large lemons
- 25ml extra virgin olive oil
- Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
If using an oven, preheat to 200°C. Rinse the fish under cold running water and pat dry with paper towel. Season the fish with salt and pepper, being sure to get into the stomach cavity and the slits. Arrange the fish on a lined baking sheet or in a roasting dish.
To make the marinade, take one sprig from each of the herbs, remove any woody stalks and finely chop. Add to a bowl with the olive oil. Zest and juice one lemon and crush the garlic cloves, adding them to the marinade. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Take the rest of the herbs and arrange into small bunches – one bunch for each fish. Slice the remaining lemons thickly and stuff each fish with the slices and herb bouquets. Drizzle over the marinade, making sure to spoon it liberally into the cavity and over the skin. This will stop the fish from sticking to the baking sheet or braai grid.
Roast the fish at 180°C for 20 to 24 minutes in the oven or over medium coals on the braai – until the flesh is no longer translucent and it pulls away easily from the skin. Remove the herb bouquets and lemon slices and serve the silvers immediately with a grilled peach, burrata and prosciutto salad and my olive and rosemary focaccia.
Olive and Rosemary Focaccia
Make the dough for this pillowy no-knead bread a day in advance. Once the waiting period for the dough to prove is over, the focaccia only takes 20 minutes from oven to table.
Prep time: 30 mins plus overnight proving /Cook time: 20 mins /Serves: 4-6
You will need:
- 420ml warm water
- 4g (1 teaspoon) instant yeast
- 5g (1 teaspoon) honey
- 15ml (1 tablespoon) olive oil
- 10g (2 teaspoons) fine sea salt
- 500g white bread flour
- 1x 200g sachet of pitted green olives, drained
- 8-10 sprigs of rosemary, rubbed with olive oil
- Flaky sea salt
Mix the yeast, honey, olive oil and salt into the warm water and add the flour. Mix until the flour is thoroughly hydrated. Scrape down the bowl and cover for 10 minutes in a warm place.
Using wet hands, stretch and pull the dough, folding it in over itself. Cover for another 10 minutes before repeating the stretching process. This builds structure in the dough.
Place dough smooth-side up and rub with olive oil. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Line a 23x33cm metal baking sheet with oiled paper. Pour in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil into the base of the tray. With oiled hands, fold the dough into a burrito-like shape, slide lengthways in the tray and flip so that its smooth-side up.
Cover and proof for 2 hours. If it hasn’t spread over the baking sheet then assist it using oiled hands. Drizzle with olive oil and use fingers to dimple the bread.
Press the olives and oiled rosemary into the dimples, and sprinkle over some flaky sea salt.
Bake the focaccia at 220C on the lowest rack for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Slice and serve immediately.