What’s cooking today: Kingklip fried in cumin butter with fennel yoghurt sauce
Stock levels of kingklip were badly depleted, but things have improved greatly and we can enjoy our favourite fish once more. But let’s not get carried away lest we land the species in hot water again, so to speak. Let’s regard our Kingklip Fix as an occasional treat.
Kingklip that is green-listed by Sassi is available in South Africa under controlled circumstances. Sustainable quantities are permitted that are the bycatch of demersal longline fishing for hake.
There’s nothing to touch this fish, in our South African fish culture at least. Sassi’s current indication for kingklip does not mean we should all go mad and start eating it twice or more a week like in the old days, but we can enjoy this prized fish now and then with a clear conscience.
2 kingklip fillets cut from the thick end
3 Tbsp flour seasoned generously with salt and white pepper
4 Tbsp butter
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 Tbsp fennel fronds, chopped finely
6 Tbsp plain yoghurt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and white pepper to taste
Mix the fennel fronds, yoghurt and lemon juice together, season with salt and white pepper to taste, and macerate for three hours or more. Bring it to room temperature an hour before cooking the fish.
Rinse the kingklip fillets and pat them dry. Trim off any extraneous bits so that you have a compact, neat fillet. Dip them in the seasoned flour and leave to stand for 30 minutes for the salt in the flour to firm them up. (In the fridge if it’s not a cold day.)
Melt the butter in a skillet or heavy iron frying pan and add the cumin seeds. Simmer on a low heat until the seeds start to crackle and pop like Rice Krispies.
Increase the heat to moderately high until the butter foams a little. Put the fillets in, not touching, give the pan a quick shake immediately, then do not touch it for several minutes, otherwise you will risk breaking the fish. After a while it will release itself from the pan and you can flip it over very carefully (lift up one side and let it slide over) to cook the other side until it is beautifully browned (gently lift one edge to look underneath). Then carefully turn it back over and slide it onto a warm plate. It should be browned outside but slightly less than done in the middle. If you insist on cooking until it is thoroughly cooked at the centre, your fish will be dry.
Serve the fennel yoghurt atop or alongside the fish, with lemon wedges and chips. DM