The first time I ate bokkoms was at Wolfgat in Paternoster where diners are presented with a cloth bag of freshly baked bread and a pan of bubbling bokkom butter. Seaweed was added which amplified the umami flavour and it was utterly delicious. With this extremely simple recipe for bokkom butter with sage, I am trying to re-create that heavenly food moment. I also wanted to make a bokkom pissaladière, but more about that in a bit.
The next time I ate bokkoms was in the small West Coast town of Veldrif on a weekend away. This is the home of the bokkom and you see them drying in the sun everywhere. We were served a few shards in a restaurant with white bread and butter and a traditional way it is eaten on the West coast. I was surprised that it tasted better than I thought it would and reminded me immediately of anchovies.
More recently I ate them was at The Foodbarn (one of my favourite Cape Town restaurants) where Franck Dangereaux made a bokkom aillade and served this with crudités. Aillade is kind of the love child of pesto and aoli, so adding the salty bokkoms to the mix was inspired. He also made mini bokkom pissaladière pastry tartlets, and again, this really worked and was completely delicious.
These tasty snacks were part of a menu Franck created to showcase the fish and fishers of the ABALOBI APP – The most phenomenal initiative I’ve seen in the food industry in South Africa. It’s fairly complicated to explain but it is also really simple. The App connects the fish on your restaurant plate to the exact origin and fisher who caught it. So this ‘hook to cook’ value chain is a way to ensure the fish you are eating is responsible, traceable and caught by South African artisanal fishers. The fishermen and women in the ABALOBI initiative supply the restaurant with their ‘Catch of the day’ and in terms of diversity and seasonality many lesser-known species make their way into the system and this is a very exciting thing.
As a consumer, you can just click on the QR code wherever you see a restaurant on the system and can read the full back-story about the fish. It’s super exciting when tech works so well and so directly to uplift communities and add value right down the food chain..
There are currently over 60 restaurants sourcing #fishwithastory via the ABALOBI marketplace, so keep an eye out next time you eat out.
“The ABALOBI* initiative is an open, transdisciplinary and social learning endeavour, bringing together various stakeholders, with traditional fishers taking centre stage. ABALOBI, as a mobile app suite and programme, is aimed at social justice and poverty alleviation in the small-scale fisheries chain, transformation in the way we produce knowledge, stewardship of our marine resources, and resilience building in the face of climate change. Promoting traceable, storied seafood by empowered small-scale fishers from hook to cook, in a manner that is not only ecologically responsible but also socially fair. Because who fishes matters.
*ABALOBI is a registered non-profit organisation (191-303 NPO)”
For all the info on ABALOBI click this link.
My recipe for pissaladière with bokkoms is inspired by Francks pastry tarts and fashioned on his original recipe for pissaladière and then my subsequent cheat’s version with a baguette. This Southern French classic is traditionally made on a thickish pizza base and I really like it on bread too.
As this was my first time working with bokkoms it was a case of adding as much as I thought worked for the recipe, so you could just play around with quantities that suit your taste. I love salty food and the onions, which get slowly rendered down, are really sweet so they can withstand a decent whack of the salty fish.
I added most of the bokkoms to the onions to soften and cook into them but as a homage to the West Coast and a tradition of eating them uncooked, I finished off the pissaladière with a light dusting of very grated bokkoms and this worked really well. They have very fine bones which are super small and crunchy when dried, so by finely grating them, you take away the textural issue of eating bokkoms straight up. They soften beautifully in the butter too.
If you want to make something similar but don’t have access to bokkoms, then follow this recipe with anchovies
- 1 medium baguette cut in half horizontally
- A generous splash of olive oil
- 4 large white onions peeled and thinly sliced
- 6 garlic cloves finely chopped or crushed
- 2tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 3 bay leaves (optional)
- 3-4 Tbsp finely chopped bokkom (about 1 small bokkom – plus extra for grating)
- a small handful of pitted black Calamata olives to garnish (about 8 – 10), cut in half
- Micro greens to serve / optional garnish
- Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a medium sized pan and when hot add the onions, garlic, thyme and bokkom. Reduce the heat and cook slowly for 20 – 25 minutes until the onions are really soft and take on a light golden colour. Do not let it brown. Season with a little pepper (I like white pepper here)
- To prepare the baguette
- Slice the baguette in half and dived the divide the onion mix and spread it over the 2-baguette halves. You want this to be a nice thickish layer and and dot the olives along the top.
- Bake in a 180 C / 350F oven for 20 – 25 minutes until golden and crunchy.
- Serve with a dusting of very finely grated bokkom (do this on a microplane) and micro greens
- 100gms butter
- 2 – 3 tsp of finely grated or chopped bokkom (depending on how salty you like it)
- 6 – 8 sage leaves
- freshly sliced baguette or any bread to serve.
- Melt he butter and bokkoms in a small saucepan over a gentle heat. When the butter starts to bubble add the sage and cook for a few seconds until its starts sizzling and releases its aromatics.
- Serve while warm with bread for dipping. The sage can be scooped up with the butter.
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