When I was a kid, my parents had clearly not read the parenting book that advised parents to “give your kids some freedom and space to grow”. Oh no, instead they had opted for the book that said “be very careful, absolutely EVERYTHING poses a potential danger to your offspring!”. Sigh. The list of things we were not allowed to do or that were incredibly dangerous was long and immutable, from the fairly sensible (“no child of mine will ride a motorcycle”) to the faintly ridiculous (“no you may not at the age of 16 sleep over at your girlfriend’s house unless her mother and I have agreed the terms and conditions in triplicate in writing”). To get around The List, I usually tried two strategies: either I would ask her when the other person involved in my request was already in the room with us (“Please, mom, can I sleep over at Anne-Marie’s house tonight?”), knowing that she could not come up with a reason to refuse that was not faintly insulting to my friend or her parents. Alternatively, I would explain how “everybody else is allowed to do it” (ear piercing, sleepovers, going to movies without grownups – the usual). This was usually met with the unchallengeable “If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you just go ahead and do the same?”.
Evidently, my mother had also not read the chapter entitled “The Teenager’s Unshakeable Desire to Fit In”
The funny thing about that particular teenage desire is that I outgrew it, just as easily as I outgrew the desire to paint my fingernails (and bedroom walls!) black; my love for mini skirts work with ankle boots (well, it was the 80s…); and my ambition to have spiral-permed hair (I kid you not). It wasn’t an overnight change, but by the time I was in my mid-20s I really did not care what people thought about what I chose to do, and I certainly did not do anything because everybody else was doing it. As all my friends took up smoking, I laughed and had another beer instead. As many of my contemporaries rushed off into marriage to their childhood sweethearts, I refused to settle for the bloke I was with and carried on searching for Mr Right (in all the wrong places, but that’s a whole other story) until I was 30. As those same friends set about the expected task of having babies and buying white picket fences, I upped sticks, moved to London and lost what little interest I may have had in producing mini-me. Being a lecturer for 8 years also meant that I no longer feel a thing if a roomful of people stare at me. Poor Nick, on the other hand, has never lectured and doeskind of care about what people are saying and consequently spends a lot of time hissing questions at me: “Why are you the only person at the gallery opening wearing trainers?” (Umm, because it was a long walk from the station and I respect my feet.) “Why do you carry a camera bag when everybody else wears a handbag?” (Erm… because I have a big camera that I like to take with me. Obviously!) Why are your sunglasses permanently perched on your head, summer or winter? (Because I freaking hate alice bands!). But me? I just kind of meander off and do my own thing.
Which explains why, when the lovely folks at Clemengold (who also generously sponsored the Food Blogger Indaba) sent out a crate of Clemengold clementines to a number of food bloggers, most of them made sweet dishes. But me? I meandered off into savoury territory. But before we get to that, what is a Clemengold? It’s an easy-peel, seedless citrus fruit with a distinctive deep orange colour – actually a type of late-ripening clementine known as a Nadorcott but marketed under the brand name ClemenGold. Based in South Africa, ClemenGold owns the licensing rights to the brand and controls the quality of the brand worldwide through contracts with growers in South Africa, South America, Morocco and Australia. Requirements for a fruit to be labelled as a ClemenGold are strict: it must have 48% juice content; an 11% Brix (sugar) level; an acidity of between 0.7% and 1.3%; and it must be virtually seedless. Which all combines to mean that when you grab a ClemenGold, you are assured of a fragrant, juicy quailty fruit – something that I can attest to after munching my way through a couple of kilos!! (Incidentally, while slicing the Clemengolds for the recipe, I discovered that the odd looking but rather fabulous slicer-spreader Wuesthof knife given to Indaba participants by Yuppiechef is ideal for the job, cutting cleanly through the peel and soft, juicy flesh – without shredding it. Thanks Yuppiechef!)
So what did I make? After some though, I decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to recreate a wonderful recipe that I enjoyed at The Depot in Barnes. Although gilthead bream is not a fish I often see in my local supermarkets, it is well worth venturing a little further afield to find it. It is the member of the sea bream family most highly prized for its sweet firm flesh, and can be identified by the golden band on its forehead. It is farmed all year round but go for organic if you can, which is stocked at lower densities and fed on more sustainable feed. The recipe is simplicity itself: all you have to do is season the butter, slice the Clemengolds and stuff the fish before baking, but it delivers huge rewards in terms of taste. The Clemengolds are a dream in this recipe – sweeter than lemons which might overwhelm the sweet flesh, and juicy enough to infuse the entire fish with their flavour and juices. As a dinner party show-stopper that you can whip up in minutes, this recipe takes a lot of beating – and this is one instance where you should follow the crowd and do exactly what I do
- 2 whole gilt-head bream, scaled, gutted and cleaned
- 30g butter, softened
- 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
- zest from 1 Clemengold (or use any clementine)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 whole Clemengold, sliced into thin slices (or use any clementine)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- In a small bowl, mix the butter, thyme, zest, salt and pepper.
- Rinse the fish inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. I usually enlarge the body cavity slightly by slicing it open a little more towards the tail, to make more room for stuffing. Make 2 slashes in the skin of both sides the fish, being careful not to slice the flesh if you can.
- Sprinkle the fish inside and out with a little salt, then generously spread butter inside the body cavity of each. Place half the Clemengold slices in body cavity of each fish.
- Lightly oil a piece of aluminium foil large enough to wrap one fish. Place the fish on the foil and wrap up so that it is sealed. Repeat with the second fish.
- Bake at 180C for about 20 minutes. I forgot, but at the end of 20 minutes, open the foil parcels, turn the grill onto high and return the fish to the oven for a few minutes - just until beginning to brown.
- Serve immediately, with a creamy, lemony Chardonnay and topepd with any of the butter that might be left over.
DISCLOSURE: Clemengold sent me a box of their gorgeous fruit for free, but if you want to buy them here in the UK, they are available at Tesco and ASDA. The Wuesthof knife was a sponsored item received at the Food Blogger Indaba in Cape Town.
And while we’re chatting, don’t forget to submit your entry to my annual barbecue event, Braai, the Beloved Country, by 23 September! Participants also stand to win one of two copies of Braai Masters of the Cape Winelands (will ship worldwide) – so get the fire going right now! Details of how to enter can be found here.