I'm in a weird 'fuck you' kind of mood. Not belligerent as such – more just… acerbically contrarian.
This can only mean it's definitely time to write a blog post.
So, I'm not good at summer. No good at it at all. I hate open shoes, shorts, "summer advertising", the insane pressure to be at a fucking picnic every five goddam minutes, I hate that I live hundreds of kilometers away from the nearest salt water, and I hate the fact that I'm not nearly in as good a shape as I'd like – something that summer as an event (because that's what it seems to be these days rather than, you know…a change in the weather or something) is clearly, specifically and cruelly designed to expose in me.
The cozy cocoon of winter (where for three glorious months men get to dress like men rather than confused schoolboys) basically ebbs away, leaving behind awful rock-pools of people who smell like coconut and have decided that warmer weather is a good reason to cover themselves with some sort of lotion that has glitter in it.
Apart from being generally grumpy about having feet that don’t look good in sandals (seriously, I look like some sort of Slavic rapist), I guess the real source of all this summermosity (see what I did? Oxford English dictionary you’re welcome) is that I suck at summer-appropriate cooking. However I’d like to think of myself as being more Italian in my cooking influences: lighter, less fussy, fewer – better quality ingredients (which is perfect for the hot season) – there’s an evil French beast lurking deep within me that I just can’t get rid of.
No, that’s not a dildo joke.
I can’t help it, I like sauces. I like thick, comforting food. I like the inexplicable magic that happens in a pot when when you let slow heat work its way through for hours and hours. I like things that are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside – and all of that is straight down the line Winter Cooking. Which always makes the retreat of cold nights and sharp mornings, in the face of baking afternoons and warm nights, a real struggle for me. Suddenly my kitchen ideas all seem out of step, inappropriate or just plain at odds with the season’s temperatures and dress-code. What makes it worse is that I live on the top floor of a block of flats, where the balcony was long ago converted into an office. I can’t braai (South African for barbecue), which means that other great summer cooking tradition – doing it outdoors, is also somewhat closed off to me.
But, this isn’t going to only be a moan about weather. Because firstly – I’m as stubborn as fuck. And secondly I don’t like not being good at something; it really bothers me, in a sort of deep-down way that can only be equated with the soulful grip of Ryan Gosling’s natural musk.
Which is why, with the determination of a nasty-ass honey badger – I bullied some friends of mine into firing up the grill on the first warm night that was on offer and doing my best to force some sort of ‘summer-appropriate’ cooking on anyone I could get my hands on.
Because this will not stand. I need to get better at this, and the only way to do it, is to do it.
You can tell I’m desperate to be summery in that it’s almost the most obvious complete cliche to barbecue fish, but things become cliches because they work – and this is no exception.
The trick? Try be more Italian (see paragraph 5). Try not to get farmed salmon, and if you are make sure it’s Scottish. Get the fishmonger to cut you thick steaks vertically so that the flesh is held together by the spine, rather than the fillet one typically buys in the supermarket.
Mix the ingredients fresh, make sure the grill is hot, and eat with a simple salad on a warm summer’s night. Or whenever the fuck you feel like it really…
Ingredients (for 4)
4 thick-cut salmon steaks
The juice of a large lemon, and then an extra lemon cut into quarters
a healthy tsp of minced chilli, or 1 dried red chilli, finely chopped up
a healthy tsp of minced garlic, or 2 fat cloves, finely chopped up
1 tbsp of finely-chopped rosemary
1 healthy tsp of dried mint
A good glug of olive oil
(this one is weird, but it’s inclusion is so, so good) 1 tbsp of the pickle vinegar from a jar of pickled onions.
Salt and pepper.
What to do
Mix all the marinade ingredients and whisk by hand until lightly emulsified. Coat the salmon with the marinade, using a brush until it’s all used up and the salmon is glossy and juicy. Then season generously with salt and pepper. Leave it to sit in those juices for about 20 minutes while the fire gets hot. Rub the grill with olive or vegetable oil, so that the fish doesn’t stick, and get it got over the fire.
Slap that fish on there for about 6-7 minutes on each side so that it’s nicely charred, but still pink on the inside, then get it onto a plate with the lemon wedges. Twist a couple more licks of salt and pepper over the fish and then serve with an extra squeeze from the lemons.
I want to say a quick thank you to HOUSE AND LEISURE for including me on their list of exciting young South Africans and moose-whisperers – they continue to be generous and awesome, and if you’re here because of them, welcome. I hope you stick around. Don’t be afraid to lick something.