What’s cooking today: Black garlic carpenter fish on the braai

Gordon Wright’s black garlic braaied carpenter fish. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

A butterflied whole carpenter fish is nice and firm and takes a flavoursome marinade well. On a visit to Gordon Wright in his Karoo farmhouse last week, he stoked the coals, poured the wine and cooked us this.

Gordon Wright can cook anything. His two Karoo cookbooks are superb (Karoo Food and Veld to Fork) and full of sensible, good recipes worth cooking. For a braai for sundry folk on Wednesday evening on the massive stoep of his farmhouse hideaway somewhere between Graaff-Reinet and Somerset East, he marinated a whole carpenter fish in black garlic paste and also basted it with a batch of my Café de Paris butter that he had made. It was succulent and delicious.

It was an eccentric little gathering and the conversation went off in many directions. Old friends of Gordon and Rose had pulled in for a while pending the completion of their new coastal home. Another, younger couple, a South African and his French girlfriend, had an intriguing story. He had come out from Canada two weeks before the original lockdown, for three weeks. What happened next is obvious.

Eventually he was able to return to his Canadian home but had not been back there long when he realised that he needed to return to his African roots once again, to stay. Gordon had actually introduced them, and now they’re both here for a new life. Strange how the world turns, and it makes you wonder quite how many people have found themselves living in another country after first having been trapped there by lockdown.

Here’s Gordon’s recipe for that delicious fish…


1 x carpenter or any fresh fish, butterflied

Black garlic paste, enough to smear all over the flesh side of the fish

Café de Paris butter, as needed


Brush black garlic paste onto flesh and let it marinate for 20 to 30 minutes.

Oil a hinged braai grid on the inside, lay the fish out on it and seal on the flesh side for 3 to 5 minutes, then turn and brush Café de Paris butter onto the flesh. Cook for 10 minutes, skin side down, until the flesh flakes off the bones easily. 

Serve, says Gordon, “with dilly tatties, a nice salad and a splash of wine over a few good mates”. Dilly tatties are Rose’s smashed potatoes with lots of dill and green olives. DM/TGIFood

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer of the Year 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is now available in the DM Shop. Buy it here.

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