The wonderful thing about South African food is that there are no strict rules to follow. South Africans are the most adventurous cooks in the world, even more so than the Australians – if only because there are so many more cultures and traditions to choose from and fuse with. As a general rule of thumb the Cape has strong European and Malaysian roots, Durban has her roots in England, China and India and the city of Johannesburg is 100% Anglo-African Chinese and thumbs her nose at everyone – simply taking the best that anyone has to offer.
North, West, Central and East Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius, Portugal, China, France, Italy, Holland, Germany, India and Malaysia are all vital contributors to a fresh and vibrant cuisine that is as new as it is old and as simple as it is complex. It’s essence is that it defies all categorization.
This is my recipe for Baccalà
1 kg Baccalà
1 whole fennel bulb, thinly sliced or shaved
2 tsp cardamom seeds, remove seeds from pod
3 tsps yellow mustard seeds
1 garlic clove, peeled & quartered
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
3 limes, zest and juice
100 g Italian parsley, chopped
500 ml thin cream
100 g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 170 C and lightly grease an oven dish or casserole.
Soak the cod in several changes of cold fresh water for 24 hours and check for saltiness by breaking off a little flake to taste – you may need some salt for this recipe as cream removes a lot of salt.
Remove the cod, rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into pieces, discard bones and skin if there are any and place the cod and fennel in an oven dish – season with salt (only if needed) and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle the lime juice over the fish. In a bowl combine cream with half the parsley, cumin, ginger, mustard seeds, cardamom, garlic and lime zest to infuse for 10 minutes and then pour the mixture over the fish. Bake, covered, in the oven for about 40 minutes, checking every now and then. Allow to bake uncovered for the last 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, dot with the rest of the parsley and the butter and serve with crispy bruscetta, a green salad and a shaved carrot and coriander salad. The long cooking process delivers rich, soft and creamy fish. Try a chilled Perderberg Sauvignon Blanc Reserve – the 2007 is excellent.