Arniston fish cakes in Sedgefield

I was right! My wife had a huge smile on her face when she saw what we got.

In the 50 years I have been deep sea fishing, I have had the privilege of fishing in awesome spots across South Africa, but it’s not everyday we got exactly what we wanted. Some days the fishing gods like to make us work hard for food, and this was one of those days. I had the opportunity to take my grandson deep sea fishing in Mossel Bay. Our last trip was 6 years ago in Struisbaai when we went Yellowtail fishing. This time we were hoping to target some bottom fish in the shallow waters at Mossel Bay. Joining us on Manoli’s boat from GoFish Charters was my good friend Manie, and a few fishermen from George.

We had a 6 am launch on a windless day with a nice and calm sea and immediately set off for the shallow pinnacles in the Klein Brak and Great Brak areas. After a frustrating 2 hours with nothing but Barbel and a few Mackerel to show for our efforts, the skipper decided to venture into deeper waters in search of hake. Hake loves cold and deep water! Fishing in a strong current in 60m+ of water with 8 oz sinkers on a charter boat can be challenging with lots of line tangles to be expected, but the crew on board were superstars in helping out quickly to untangle and get the lines back in again. There was a national shortage of sardines – the favourite bait for hake, but we were lucky enough to have decent pike, as well as the mackerel we caught earlier on, to use as bait.

It did not take us long to find the hake and pretty soon we started to catch a few. Unfortunately they were on the smaller side but I knew my wife would be ecstatic when she saw fresh hake tonight, so we plugged away. In between the hake we also managed to land a few cape gurnards – these are lovely eating fish in their own right. After a few hours of fishing it was decided to head back before the water in the harbour got too shallow. Everyone on the boat had fun and no-one went home empty handed, we made a quick stop on the way back to let the crew clean the fish, and we were set for our trip home. Of course, with an 18 year old fishing with you, we had to make another pit stop for a few burgers and shakes for the empty stomachs before we could head back to Sedgefield.

I was right! My wife had a huge smile on her face when she saw what we got. Although she loves the variety of fish I have brought home over the years (and those that she has caught herself), she is still happy every time she can lay her hands on some fresh hake. The decision on what to cook was an easy one, we still had a few aanter (soldiers) left from our trip a week back and we decided to combine the 2 species into her famous Arniston fish cakes. This is a recipe I got many years ago from the commercial fishermen there and we have made hardly any adjustments to it.

RECIPE

  • Oven on at 180 degrees celcius and the whole fish goes into a pan – no oil or spices – to bake for around 40 minutes. 
  • In the meantime we boil some potatoes for mash. It takes a bit of guesswork as we need equal amounts of fish and mash. Salt, butter and a bit of milk for the mash. You want the mash nice and firm still, not too soft.
  • When the fish comes out we let it cool down so that we can work it easily with our hands. We removed the hake and santer skins and flaked the fish to get rid of the bones. 
  • 2 cups of fish, 2 cups of mash, 6 eggs, 4 slices of white bread and the final magic ingredient – a few sprinkles of Robertson fish spice. Mix well together and then form small balls (like normal hamburger patties), flatten them slightly and drop them carefully in hot oil. 
  • Turn over once or twice until they are nice and brown all over and then place them on a grid to get rid of excess oil. 
  • Voila!! We have just caught the fish and then prepared the most amazing fish cakes. Enjoy on their own with sweet chilli sauce or mayo, as a fish burger with trimmings, or add some veggies for a stunning meal.

Stefano Schoonees

Primal Provider #114

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