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La Motte - Braised snoek for a cold Cape winter

Braised (gesmoorde) snoek is an inexpensive, traditional dish that makes a regular appearance at the table during the cold Cape winters. The most well-known method for preparing this dish is as follows: Sauté onions in lots of butter together with pepper, salt, fresh ginger, lemon zest and juice, and a pinch of fresh chilli. then add cooked flaked fish (fresh, salted or smoked) and braise slowly until cooked. Traditionally potatoes were added and some modern cooks prefer to add fresh tomatoes with the pips and skins removed.

The recipe given below is an interesting adaptation of a braised snoek recipe from the nineteenth century. Snoek is recommended as the main ingredient, but any firm fish will do. Adding eggs to thicken and enrich the sauce is also an unusual variation on the traditional recipe.

The original recipe recommends that a glass of sherry be poured over the dish at the end, but we replaced the sherry with Chardonnay. Also serve this warming dish with a glass of La Motte Chardonnay!

Braised Snoek


1 Tbsp (15 ml) butter

1 kg salted snoek, soaked in milk for 12 hours (if using fresh or smoked snoek instead, you do not need to soak it)

2 onions

½ tsp (2.5 ml) grated nutmeg

1 tsp (5 ml) ground all spice

¼ tsp (1 ml) ground cloves

½ tsp (2 ml) finely chopped fresh root ginger

2 cups (500 ml) fish stock

¾ cup (190 ml) Chardonnay or other dry white wine

1 bay leaf

1 tsp (5 ml) lemon zest

Salt and ground white pepper

2 egg yolks

4 tsp (20 ml) lemon juice

2 Tbsp (30 ml) chopped fresh parsley, fennel or dill, for garnishing


Heat a frying pan, brown the butter and add the snoek. Cook the snoek over moderate heat until golden brown. Remove from the pan, let it cool and flake the fish from the bones. Discard the bones and skin.

Add the onions, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and ginger to the pan and sauté until the onions are tender. Strain off any excess butter.

Add the fish stock, wine, flaked snoek, bay leaf and lemon zest, and place parchment (baking) paper on the surface to prevent too much liquid evaporating. Season with salt and white pepper, and simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the sauce, leaving the solid ingredients in the frying pan.

Beat the egg yolks and lemon juice together and add half the strained sauce. Mix through well and pour back in to the saucepan. Cook over low heat until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Add another egg if the sauce is too thin.

Pour the sauce over the snoek and heat through gently. Garnish with chopped parsley, fennel or dill and serve with sliced bread or rolls, dried apricot slices and a tomato salsa.

Fish Stock


2 Tbsp (30ml) Olive Oil

3 onions, sliced

3 leeks, sliced

1 fennel bulb, sliced

3 stalks celery, sliced

3 bay leaves

½ cup (125ml) fresh parsley

½ cup (125ml) fresh basil leaves

1 sprig fresh tarragon, or 1 tsp (5 ml) dried

2 Tbsp (15 ml) coriander seeds

1 tsp (5 ml) white peppercorns

3 kg fish bones, rinsed well (preferably flat fish such as sole)

2 cups (500 ml) dry white wine

10 tsp (50 ml) pastis (Richard or Pernod)

28 cups (7 litres) water


Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot or saucepan and add all the vegetables, herbs coriander and peppercorns. Sauté until tender.

Add the fish bones and cook for 5 minutes

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 2 hours

Strain through a muslin cloth

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