Cooking White Steenbras

Catching and cooking the White Steenbras (Lithognathus lithognathus)

The White Steenbras is one of the most popular fish to target along the South African Coast, they can weigh up to 20kg’s, but the average size caught is between 1 and 5kg’s (more below). These fish can be found along the beaches along the edges of deeper holes as well as either side of a sand flat. They can also be found at mud flats in rivers and estuaries.

The fish we caught were fairly small and didn’t give much of a fight, but boy did they taste good. You can easily catch them with a fishing rod, using sand prawns as bait.

20170514_082432(The above picture is not a Steenbrand but a undersized Grunter caught during the session)

Once caught, preparing and cooking them is also done with ease. When catching to eat this culinary delight, ensure you are in possession of a valid fishing permit, also, only catch and keep what you need and stick to the catch limit.


To prepare the fish you should clean it by removing the scales, fins and intestines, and that is it, ready for cooking.

You will need the following:


  • 2 freshly caught White Steenbras
  • 1/4 cup flower
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped chilly
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped oregano
  • 1/4 chopped garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 lemon for garnishing

How to prepare:


  • Make 2 to 3 diagonal incisions on the outer layer of the fish
  • Generously rub the entire fish with the Salt, pepper, chillies, garlic and Oregano (Ensure to get enough spices in the open cavity)
  • Stuff some of the chopped onions in to the open cavity for flavor
  • Once the fish is well spiced smother it with flower
  • Heat up some oil in a frying pan and add the Steenbras to the hot oil. Ensure the pan is on medium heat. If the pan is too hot it will burn the outer layer before the fish is properly cooked on the inside.

Once the fish is cooked serve with some spicy rice and freshly cut lemons on the side.


We will be adding more fishing recipes as we catch and prepare them on our travels through Africa.

Caught and prepared your own White Steenbras?

Feel free to share your recipe and photos!

Cooking Cuttlefish

Preparing and cooking the Common Cuttlefish (Sepia Vermiculata)

Traveling on a tight budget, it is presumed that eating like a king is out of the question, however, with a little patience and some minor throw net skills, it is definitely something that is achievable to get on your plate.


Cuttlefish, in common with their squid and octopus relatives, is one of the most delicious treats the South-African coast has to offer. You can find them in permanently open estuaries and sheltered lagoons (often seen in very shallow water at night). They are found along the whole South African coastline from the Western Cape to Mozambique. The demand for cuttlefish is fairly low; it is used as bait or food by recreational fishers, this makes them plentiful in supply and fairly easy to catch, all you need is a fishing rod with some mullet (any bait will do, they are not fussy eaters) and a net to catch them once you’ve reeled them close as they are hard to hook but will cling onto their prey.


Once caught is is also easy to clean them and prepare them for cooking. You should cut off their head, this will instantly kill them and also prevent them from getting a grip on you with their tentacle and beaks (a very painful experience which I recommend avoiding). If they keep on moving, don’t be freaked out, their bodies do jerk a bit afterwards due to pulses to their nervous system. Once the head is completely removed, you can make an incision on their back and cut out the hard bony bit, called the cuttlebone, and give that to the nearest budgie to sharpen it’s beak on. The final step is to remove the intestines and once you are done you are left with a flobbery bit of rubbery excellence ready to be turned in to a culinary success.

Something to consider when cleaning Cuttlefish is a surface to clean them on, they have a sac of ink that they use to evade predators, this becomes extremely messy and it will stain anything it comes in contact with, we recommend doing it in the water where they are caught.

Now it is time to scout for some ingredients to prepare your fresh catch.


  • 4 freshly cleaned Cuttlefish
  • 1 Can of beer
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons freshly chopped tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil for deep-frying


  • Mix the flower Thyme, tarragon salt, and pepper together in a mixing bowl
  • Gradually add the beer and stir until you have a smooth mixture much like pancake batter
  • Take the Cuttlefish skins and cut them into bite size strips and add them to the batter
  • In a pot, add oil until it is about 5cm-7cm deep and heat the oil

NOTE: Correct temperature is important.  If the temperature is too low the oil soaks in, making the food soggy and prevents batter adhesion.  If the temperature is too high the outside browns before the inside is properly cooked or heated.

  • Once the oil is hot, add the coated cuttlefish in batches to ensure they have enough space in the oil to cook

Once they are all cooked, you can place them on paper towels to soak up the extra oiliness. Squeeze some fresh lemon over them for taste and serve with rice or chips.


We served the Cuttlefish with a cabbage and carrot coleslaw and jalapeno poppers.

We highly recommend catching and cooking these delicious creatures.


Preparing African Sharptooth Catfish/Barbel… From killing to skinning to cooking!

A-Z of making an amazing meal from a severely underrated fish!

While we (The Nitty Gritty Nomads) are zig-zagging our way across Africa, it is very important to know how to make do with what the land/water can offer, although not all of the herbs presented will be easily accessible, a simple beer batter works just as well.

Barbel or the African Sharptooth Catfish are some of the most abundant fish in Africa, they are found in all freshwater habitats (lakes, rivers, ponds) as well as human-made habitats, having even been found in urban sewage systems. They are capable of crawling great distances from drying or overpopulated ponds as well as surviving long periods of time in shallow mud between rainy seasons. They eat living as well as dead animal matter, anything that can fit in their proportionately gigantic mouths, making them a super successful fish species.

That fish tastes bad and muddy, you can’t eat that fish” (Pessimists 2010-2017)

Words I have heard repeatedly from many unadventurous people, all of which had one thing in common…. having never tasted Barbel (not once). I have prepared this fish on more than 10 occasions, and it has a white to red meat that melts in your mouth! It fetches over R100 p/kg in Germany and has made its way around the world as a viable farming fish. It is rich in protein and essential fatty acids Omega-3 (several times higher than Mackerel and Trout), calcium, amino acids and vitamins.

These above attributes make this fish one of the most attractive freely available food options when exploring the back roads and rivers of Africa. Not only are they an abundant food source throughout Africa, they also have remarkably few bones and are amazing to eat! I will take you through the motions of preparing this delicious fish.

Step 1: Acquire a Barbel and sharp knives.

Personally, I know of no stores that sell Barbel; however throw a worm in at your nearest pond and you are likely to obtain one of these delicious creatures. You will also need a Leatherman/pliers and sharp knife!


Step 2: Kill the fish

Find the center of the back just behind the plating of the skull and sever the spinal chord. Alternatively a more simple method of rock to skull works with as much efficiency. Just make sure you are clean and confident in your strokes as to not make the animal suffer unnecessarily.


Step 3: Skinning!!!

Cut neatly along one side of the dorsal (top) fin, the point is to only make the incision skin deep (1-2 mm) at this point. Do the same on the ventral (under) side. Avoid including the bottom fins, try to trace the fillets you will later remove. Remember to complete the cut behind the skull and above the tail.

Begin by using your knife to pick away the skin from the meat near the tail, so it flaps over, this flap gives you leverage.You can remove the tail as I have above but it is not necessary.

Use your Leatherman to get a good grip on the flap of skin and pull slowly, making sure that you are not ripping the meat off with the skin.

At this point it should pull off rather easily, just keep checking that the meat remains where it is. After you have repeated this for both sides, you can remove the head and you have a fully skinned Barbel. You can now cut a neat line from the rectum to the front so you can remove the intestines and place them in a packet with the head.

Step 4: Filleting!

Begin following the spine of the fish from the front to the back, there are no hidden bones only the rib cage at the front and from there only a spine. An attractive large fillet will come off with minimal effort and no bones! Repeat for both sides.


Sometimes it is easier to do the top; then go from the back towards the front for the bottom half of the fillet.


The end result will be a large boneless fillet and more meat in comparison with similarly sized fish. 


Step 5: Gathering the ingredients

The fillets were soaked in milk for an hour to ensure odor free cooking (unnecessary). Now that the fillets are ready, the fun part starts, cooking and eating!


This is one of the easiest ways to prepare any fish and It will work perfectly with a barbel. The 4 basic ingredients for success are salt, pepper, garlic and lemon. The list of ingredients used for this recipe is as follows;

Fillets of one barbel
Fish spice
Soya sauce
Juice of one lemon
Onion x 1
Fresh basil

Step 6: Preparing the spices

  • Chop the onions and the basil fine and keep aside.
  • Cut the lemon in half
  • Mixed a generous amount of salt, pepper, fish spice and coriander with the flour in a shallow dish. Take the fillets and pat dry them. Then place them in the flour and ensure they are well covered. You will see the flour will naturally just stick to the fish fillets.

Step 7: Cooking

  • You fry the basil and onions in a pan, keep them aside or leave them in the pan and lightly fry the batter covered fish.
  • Cook the barbel fillets until they are nicely browned (Do not turn too frequently as the fish is exceptionally soft and breaks up easily, work delicately, like working with a women’s body or a man’s ego.
  • During the cooking process, squeeze generous amounts of lemon juice over the fish and  add some garlic (You don’t want to put the garlic in too soon otherwise it will burn, another method is to add some garlic powder to your flour mixture)

Step 8: Serve up and enjoy


I served these barbel fillets with a chilly tartar sauce, rice and a salad, but old fashioned fish and chips will do just fine. They are also perfect as starters, just cut the uncooked fillet into small cubes and fry in the same manner. We will redo a different barbel recipe while on the back roads of Africa, do not expect the same extravagance.

Now go catch yourself a barbel, prepare it, and give us feedback!

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