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THE FOOD WE ATE.  7. Frikkadels    [8min read]  

This was meant to be posted before Easter!  Seems it’s been stuck in a digital Easter bunny hole.  Please read on as if its two weeks ago!

Okay, it’s time for some lighter material.  What better than apolitical food.  With Easter around the corner, here’s a fishy tail and a recipe!

For me, and many Capetonians, the frikkadel is a fish cake.

Google the word, and it’s a meatball.  Interesting to see how Woolworths dominates the first 5-6 entries for the meatballs.  How much do they pay for this prime position?

Our young son used to call them frikkadiles.  And no, he did not call the animal a crocodel.

As with most good Cape cooking, it probably was introduced to Cape Town by the early Malays/Indonesians. They came to the old Cape Colony as slaves, indentured workers [translates bounded labour aka slaves] from around the world, and they included political exiles.  Australia was not the only country to be used as a British dumping ground for trouble makers; there it was mainly the  IRA rebels which accounts for many of the Australian Catholic population.

Those early Cape Colony settlers left us with the rich heritage now referred to as Cape Malay cooking.  The Malay Quarters is a heritage-listed area in Bokaap [Upper Cape Town] on the slopes of Signal Hill.  The closest I have seen to the Cape Town fish frikkadel is from Malaysia and the Philippines – we know that many Phillipinos settled in Kalk Bay.  Anyone have any ideas regarding the exact frikkadel origins?

My childhood memory of this culinary delight is with a rich brown colour after frying.   Added visual appeal was from their residual yellowish colouration with little twigs of parsley that poked through with a bit of onion still visible from the outside.  I like thick sliced onion, preferably a red Spanish type, it’s tastier, but burns the eyes  ++++.  As usual, there’s no gain without pain!

If you have the time, make sweet yellow rice using saffron or borrie [aka turmeric].  Add tomato smoortjie/breedie [aka salsa] over the rice and the colour combos are impressive.  [A smoortjie = an onion, can of diced tomato, garlic, ginger +/- chilli and 5-10 minutes in a pan]. Top with some green coriander leaves and the meal is well and truly on its way.

Rainbow nations need a plateful of colour, so add some borrie patat [the light purple-skinned sweet potato] gem squash or pumpkin/butternut squash and don’t forget the nutmeg.  Now we are really talking.

No time for the yellow rice?  Knock up instant mash, and you are there.  Again, don’t forget the nutmeg.  Add a dash of butter if your cholesterol allows it, and green coriander leaves folded in for added visual appeal.  No time for mash?  Use a soft

Japanese noodle, eg Singapore or egg variety – ninety seconds in the microwave bag and you can slurp your noodle with the rest.  It’s not impolite to do so in Japan.  The added aeration makes the mouthful tastier.  Not being much of a slurper, I tend to cut my noodles beforehand with my kitchen scissors.  Did someone say sacrilege?

More colour?  Throw in some peas or even baked beans, esp if the smoortjie is too much work for you.  I salivate as I write!   Add a salad of your choice, and you will need sunglasses for the multihued serving.

Okay.  You still don’t have time for all this.  So you put your fishcake on your favourite bread, preferably toasted.  Now Mrs Ball’s chutney comes into its own. Whether traditional or hot, this is a must with a frikkadel sandwich.  Cholesterol a problem?  Jazz up the dry toast with a coating of Mrs B AND add more of the dear lady to the top of the slightly squashed frikky.  Top it with a dessertspoonful full of baked beans and, again, I drool.  Best eaten with a knife and fork unless you don’t mind it all over your fingers, those beans will slide all over the show!

So, what about the recipe?  In Cape Town, it was always stock fish [hake, cod].  Snapper is a bit expensive.  Maybe Whiting or flathead, trevally, mackerel?  Kingfish may be a bit dry.  Or a can or two of red salmon [about 400g per can] – sockeye is best.  Alaskan wild salmon is safest – no toxic fish farming allowed there.  [On that subject, it’s shocking what the food industry is allowed to get away with!].   Some recipes use canned tuna or smoked  fish.

Did you ever see stockfish on sale with the head?  My mom told me it’s because it had an ugly head.  Sorry, mom, it does not look too bad here, almost handsome, I think.  —>

So, here it is:

500g fish – steam-microwave to soften – small amount water below the perforated tray.  Fork-shred the flesh into a bowl.  Or 1-2 cans salmon[800g]

1 onion cut fine or thick – your choice

1 heaped tsp garlic and 1 of ginger and 1 of borrie – turmeric

2-4 slices of moist bread – the microwaved bit of water  or water from the fish cans will do

Small bunch parsley cut fine – + the stems – waste not,  esp for those with Scottish blood

Salt is optional also 1tbsp or less of oil also 1tsp or dsp of coarse ground pepper or chilli to your liking, mild to volcanic

1 tsp ground nutmeg

I do not precook anything except the fish.

Please, do not stick it all in a blender. Please!  Be traditional. Muck in with the fingers and mix it through. Give the fingers a lick to test the mixture. No, don’t eat all of it!  It’s gonna taste even better.

Before frying, roll some of the mixture in your hand.  The amount depends on the size of your hands,  Don’t roll them too big or too small.  Flatten it a tad.  Eyeball it!

Coat in flour or bread crumbs and fry in a hot pan.  Enjoy the sizzle as it browns; turn at least once.  Do it gently.  The frikky should be slightly crumbly, sort of fall-apart consistency.  When done, it has an appealing brown colour with a bit of turmeric yellow breaking through – see photo above.

For baking, place mixture in a spray-greased flat pan about two centimetres thick and go for 30-40 minutes at 180 degrees.  Coat with bread crumbs beforehand.  This fish pie is for the  anti-cholesterol, low-fat brigade.  Top it with mash potato, and it’s a cottage pie that you will want for seconds and thirds.

The pie or fish cake also make yummy sandwiches.       Again, do not forget Mrs Balls.  It ain’t a frikkadel without it. Did you know that chutney is of Indian origin?  No?  It ain’t English, only the spelling is. It’s from chatni.  Yes, dear Mrs B is fusion cuisine, where east meets west.

An optional extra is to curry the frikkadels a bit.  Use above mix and add generous tsp or two of curry powder or ground coriander and cumin – aka dhania and jeera.  Swop the parsley for green coriander and you will be singing my praises!

Fish and fishy things are in my blood.  My great grandfather Scott was a fish dealer in Claremont.  Yep, the old man made “mot pikkelaar” – seems he preserved snoek fillets in a gunpowder-like mixture [Okay, read saltpetre].  It needs some research on my part.  [See later blog – Snoek Town calling].

Digression aside [laughter from my kids, again], give the frikkadels a go.  No, not the meatballs.  Send me your favourite fish cake recipe.

Enjoy your Easter and take care, especially those on the roads.


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