FOODSTUFF: Three chefs, an endangered fish and a wild peacock

dsc_0013.jpg Four years ago I asked a waiter at a reputable V&A Waterfront fish restaurant if the catch of the day was orange or green. He was stumped by the question. Had not a clue that I was referring to SASSI’s list of sustainable fish species. It’s a different story these days, with most SA seafood restaurants - and many consumers - asking pertinent questions about the sourcing and status of things that have fins.

A small dinner held at Wild Peacock Food Emporium in Stellenbosch earlier this week launched a new seafood product – Oceanwise sustainable farmed Kabeljou - that Wild Peacock is supplying. In the future consumers will be seeing a lot more farmed sustainable Kabeljou, the fish otherwise known as Dusky Kob. It’s being produced at massive premises adjacent to the East London coastline under the Oceanwise label. In terms of carbon footprint to get it to the Cape, not ideal. But the guys from Espadon Marine chose their East London site for being the most energy-efficient in utilising sea water for their fish-breeding factory at optimum temperatures and water quality parameters, in order to breed sufficient volumes of quality fish for the dinner table. They recycle 10% of water used and treat what is recycled back into the sea so that marine damage is minimised. dsc_0005.jpg

Wild-caught stock has spawned farm-reared fish that is available at Wild Peacock in a variety of sizes. The down side is the fish sells at around R150 per kilogram currently, placing it out of reach of many consumers, and only suitable for high-end restaurants able to pass on the cost via menu mark ups. The company’s investment in premises large enough to harvest 600 tons of fish per year is part of that price - it takes 12 to 15 months to feed and grow a 15kg fish, aside from the science and technology required. dsc_0005.jpg Wild Kob should be 40cm by law. Most Oceanwise fish are bred to over 40cm, and have a full traceability system to prove they have been land-farmed. With oceans increasingly being stripped of fish through controversial line-caught methods, long-term we have few alternatives but to pay accordingly if we want our children to know the taste of fish.

What does farmed Kob taste like? Thanks to the collective skills of The Roundhouse’s chef Eric Bullpitt and Vanessa Marx of Dear Me restaurant, very flavoursome indeed. dsc_0015.jpg And no different to the ocean version most of us are used to. Farmed Kabeljou ceviche hit the spot with lime juice zing, with avo, broad beans and baby fennel bulb. dsc_0018.jpg The cooked Kob was plump and succulent, with Eric’s signature plating and froth, with sea lettuce, pickled mussels and a tasty beurre noissette emulsion. Pastry chef Vanessa Quellac has recently been hired as the Valrhona chocolate ambassador in South Africa, a very tasty job indeed. Wild Peacock has the agency for this uber-quality French couverture chocolate, so it was appropriate to conclude a cosy dinner with glasses of Valrhona Ivoire chocolate layered with mousse berry cremeux and almond streusel. I’m not usually a white chocolate fan, but this evening ended on a richly sweet note.

More info about this fish at FOOD EMPORIUM Wild Peacock Tel 021 887 7585.