Snoek with Sumac

Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best. There is a time for a list of ingredients, three hours of cooking and special plating. However, there are also times when you need a quick, delicious and simple dinner – and this one ticks all the boxes.

While in South Africa, snoek is generally only served at braais – with the mandatory apricot jam and garlic glaze – it is also a deliciously versatile fish for a mid-week dinner. Lightly smoked and cut into portions, simply pan fried in butter with sumac, it was an incredibly good dinner.


Sumac is a tangy, lemon scented spice, often used in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern cooking. As it adds a subtle lemon flavour, it is naturally wonderful with fish or chicken – and can also be used in salads instead of lemon in a dressing. I’ve also found that it works exceptionally well when paired with butter – the creamy richness of it, paired with the tang of sumac. Mix soft butter with a generous tablespoon of sumac and rub under the skin of a chicken before roasting. Incredible.

Back to this dinner – we served our snoek with a big pile of avo (thanks Tim Noakes) and some simply roasted sweet potato – and, it was delicious. A fantastic reminder that simple is sometimes best.

Serves 2
2 portions of lightly smoked snoek – filleted and scales removed
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sumac
salt to taste

Place a non stick frying pan on a medium-high heat, and add the butter. Place the two portions of snoek on a chopping board and dust with sumac. Turn them over and dust the other side, pressing down gently onto the chopping board to make sure the sumac ‘sticks’. Place the frying pan, skin side down, and allow to fry for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and turn the fish over. Allow to fry for another 2 minutes. The fish should be done. Serve with accompaniments of your choice.


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