Famous for its bold, brash colour, snapper (Pagrus auratus) is characterised by succulent pink fillets with earthy flavours influenced by its reef habitat.
Traditionally, snapper season starts annually in September with production peaking over the summer months. Supply is greatest in November and December, and lowest in June and July.
Snapper is typically sourced locally from the waters of the Spencer Gulf and the Gulf of St Vincent, and is handline or longline caught by members of the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery to ensure the highest quality.
It is an extremely popular seafood and sport fish, so balancing the demand for snapper from consumers and recreational fishers is a challenge, but allocation policies and fishing closures have been put in place to help ensure the sustainability of the species.
If buying whole snapper, look for fish with bright colours, firm flesh, and guts and gills removed. If buying fillets, ensure they are shiny and moist (good fish shops cover the fillets or fillet on demand). Use an Esky or cooler bag and ice pack to transport your seafood and place in the fridge as soon as possible (every minute seafood is exposed to above 4C causes it to lose a day of shelf life). Always place fillets or whole fish on a plate/platter and cover with clingfilm before refrigeration.
For more information about local and seasonal seafood, visit SEAsonalitySA, the website of the South Australian Marine Fishers Association (MFA).
Recipe from chef Michael Weldon, who runs Michael Weldon Catering and cooks for Little Miss Dive Shop and Crab Shack.
400g snapper fillets cut into 100g pieces
500g vongole (mud cockles)
1 southern calamari tube, cut into thin rings
600ml tomato passata
1 brown onion, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
50g peas, frozen
Half bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, pounded with mortar and pestle
1 whole egg
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
300ml sunflower oil
200ml olive oil
4 slices sourdough bread, toasted
Heat a large drizzle of olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, celery and fennel and cook until softened. Add the paprika and cayenne pepper, then toast each slice of sourdough in the oil for 1 minute before removing to paper towel and setting aside. Pour in the tomato passata, season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then reduce and simmer for 20 minutes.
To make the aioli, add the egg, Dijon mustard and vinegar to a blender and blend until the mixture pales in colour. With the blender still running, slowly pour in a thin stream of the sunflower oil until the mixture thickens.
Once you’ve added all the sunflower oil, slowly start adding the olive oil. Once all the oil is added, add the garlic and a good pinch of salt. Mix together and taste; adjust the seasoning and add lemon juice if necessary.
In a saucepan on a medium high heat, add the cooked tomato sauce and bring it up to a gentle boil. Add the vongole and cook until they open, then add the calamari and the snapper pieces, gently cooking in the tomato sauce. Once the fish is cooked, remove from heat and add the parsley and peas.
To serve, divide the seafood into four portions, cover with the tomato sauce and top with a big spoonful of aioli and a piece of toasted sourdough.
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