Fightback food: Budget-beating braaied snoek and rustic snoek pâté

Fightback food: Budget-beating braaied snoek and rustic snoek pâté
Two in one: Tony Jackman’s braaied snoek and, inset, snoek pâté, photographed in the Boekehuis in Calvinia, Northern Cape. 21 April 2024. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Get two meals out of one acquisition and save. And buy cheaply. Hah! As if that were possible. But box cleverly when shopping for food and you might yet beat the system. Just a little.

Fight the incessant culture of hiking prices no matter how much we are suffering, with supermarkets and food stores never taking the pain themselves and passing it all onto us and our increasingly empty pockets.

Haven’t you had it up to here with the insane prices of absolutely everything? Everything. When last did you put three things in your basket and come away with change from R100? (Right, five years ago.) Make that R200. Even R300 depending on what those three things are.

Take cheese. It doesn’t seem so long ago that the price of a big slab (800g or 900g at the time) started edging above R50 and then R70 and before you knew it R90. Before you could say Edam it was more than R100, and have a look now. It’s well on its way to R150 and believe me, once it gets to R200 it’s going to tumble towards R300 before you can say Gouda. And then try not to say Cheddar and Camembert and Mozzarella. And whatever you do, don’t say long cheese names like my beloved stinky but divine-to-eat Pont-l’Évêque or, heaven forfend, Formatge de l’Alt Urgell i la Cerdanya, because that is arguably the longest cheese name in the world and it could well mean the price of cheese has gone beyond a grand per 800g. (In 10 years time will we reread this and think, gosh, if only it were that cheap now?)

The attitude by those from whom we buy our impossibly expensive food, rather than tighten their own belts a notch or two, would appear to be: Oh dear, fuel is up again, transport is up again, we must hike the prices of everything again or otherwise we won’t be able to afford our holiday in Tuscany this year.

There’s not much we can do, and we know it. And they know we know it. But we can find ways to undermine that culture. We can set aside two or three days a week when we will not buy the expensive ranges we might be used to. Or have been used to. 

We can look for the cheap cut. The offal and the tough meats (which only need slow cooking to become succulent). And we can check the freezers in our supermarkets. There’s likely to be frozen fish in there, for one thing. Baby hake, for instance. And whole snoek. I was surprised to see that it cost around R70 for a large frozen snoek. How bad was it going to be? Bear in mind though that I am not talking about the high-end food stores like the fancy incarnation of Checkers and of course Woolies. They’re going to fleece you, even in the freezers.

Here’s one small way to give them one in the eye. Buy a frozen snoek (yes, it’s reeeeeelatively cheap) and get two meals out of it. Check the date on the packaging, though, to see when it was packed and frozen. If it’s recent, it should be in excellent nick. Fish is frozen quickly and according to set standards, so as long as it hasn’t been in the freezer for months, it should be fine. Anyway, I’ve been eating red meat in this small Karoo town for more than two weeks and great as that is, I needed a break.

You need a sterilised, hinged grid for the snoek.

Braaied snoek with vegetable-studded rice

The braaied snoek. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

(Serves 2 with leftover cooked fish)


Cooking oil for the braai grid and to coat the fish

1 whole butterflied snoek, defrosted

Fresh coriander for garnish

Salt and black pepper

Lemon wedges, to serve

For the baste:

A dash of chilli oil

4 Tbsps butter, melted

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and black pepper

For the rice:

⅓ cup basmati rice

Olive oil

Half an onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

2 or 3 small sweet peppers, preferably different colours (green, red, yellow, orange)

4 small courgettes sliced in four lengthways and then diced small

4 fresh peppadews (they’re in season) or pickled ones

1 tsp ground sumac

Salt and black pepper to taste


Thaw the snoek slowly in the fridge, but you can finish thawing it at room temperature. Just be careful if it’s a hot day.

Make the rice ahead, according to the packet instructions or in your usual way. Leave it on the hob but off the heat, covered.

Simmer the onions and garlic in olive oil with the chopped sweet peppers, courgettes and peppadews. Cook until nutty, then turn the heat off. Season with sumac, salt and pepper, and stir. Cover and leave on the hob.

Sterilise the braai grid, brush it off, and when cool, brush the grid with cooking oil on the inside, thoroughly.

Place the butterflied snoek skin-side down on the lower half of the oiled hinged grid.

Brush both sides of the snoek with oil.

Salt and pepper the snoek on both sides.

Melt the butter in a small pot and add the garlic, chilli oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for a minute, and quickly brush it over the flesh side of the snoek.

Braai on hot coals skin-side down for 10 minutes. Turn and cook for another 5 minutes.

Carefully lift the cooked fish onto a serving platter. Garnish with chopped coriander.

Quickly reheat the cooked onions and vegetables. Add the rice to that and toss well so that everything is evenly distributed.

Serve the fish and rice, with lemon wedges.

Refrigerate the leftover fish overnight.

Rustic snoek pâté

The snoek pâté. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Leftover snoek

250 g mascarpone

2 Tbsp butter, at room temperature

Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Fresh coriander for garnish

Salt and white pepper to taste


Carefully remove leftover white flesh from the snoek carcass, but no skin. Most of the bones will be easy to identify, but ruffle the bits of fish between your fingers while you work to be sure no small bones slip through. Put the bits of fish into a bowl.

Add the mascarpone, butter, lemon juice and zest, fresh chopped coriander, and salt and pepper. Beat well with a wooden spoon, and be sure that the soft butter is distributed well. The butter helps to make a nice spread. Serve with bread or crackers. DM

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido. Order his book, foodSTUFF, here.

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.


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