Barbel recipe to die from

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After reading the unholy *recipe for Exploding Chicken by 10th Dan Grandmaster of Gastronomic Delights (and Steam Locomotive Driver Extraordinaire), Godfrey (PBUH), I’ve decided to share the following exotic recipe with you:

Perfect Roast Barbel

Before we go any further, I have to caution you NOT to share this recipe with anyone outside your closest circle of friends. It has been in my family for hundreds of years, and I made a promise to my old granddad on his *deathbed, never to divulge it to strangers. But you know me – I’m a man with extremely high moral principles. And if you don’t like them, I’ve got some others, as well.

This recipe originates from ancient Egypt. It was found, written in hieroglyphics, against a wall inside the tomb of Ramses IV, who reigned there during the Ming Vase Dynasty.

Ancient Egyptians worshipped many things: cats, rats, flies, crocodiles, papyrus, the Sun, and camels. Especially camels. They loved their camels with a passion – just like Australian men love their sheep – but that’s another story.

More than anything else, they loved barbel; more specifically, Nile barbel (Barbus bynni), which they worshipped as a sacred fish.

Numerous fish mummies have been uncovered inside the Pyramids. Some fish daddies have also been uncovered, although most of them were of the sugar daddy (Sugaratus daddii) variety – unfit for human consumption. (By the way, did you know that the pyramids were designed by the Fair-ou’s, and built by the Black-ou’s? It’s true, I tell you, Sakkie! Just like the Voortrekker Monument and the Union Buildings...)

The most sought-after dish in Egypt was Perfect Roast Barbel. Gourmands on camelback would travel for hundreds of miles through the deserted desert, to sample this epicurean dish from the bosom of the Nile. In those days they had no e-tolls – travelling on the highways was inexpensive and hassle free.

Nowadays you would be hard-pressed to lay your hands on a genuine Nile barbel. But, for those of us who live in Gauteng, it is easy enough to catch one at Hartbeespoortdam.

The damn barbel from Hartbeespoort are said to be quite voracious. They have been known to attack inebriated anglers by jumping inside their boats, and taking bites out of their ears, noses, hands, and so forth, and so fifth, and so sixth. And so on.

Near the damn wall, they grow to an enormous size, and can be shot from the safety of the shore, using harpoons. Or, you could simply buy them from the Zimbabweans, Mozambicans, or Congolese fishermen, who sell freshly-caught fish at the damn wall.

OK. Here we go. Perfect Roast Barbel recipe:

Total Time: 1 hr 55 min
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 1 hr 35 min
Yield: 3 to 4 servings
Level: Easy

1 wooden plank measuring 2x30x50 cm (I prefer mahogany, as it imparts a smoky flavour to the dish)
1 (2 to 3 kg) fresh barbel, head and tail removed

500 ml fresh, full cream milk
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
4 lemons
3 heads of garlic, cut in half, crosswise
5 tablespoons butter, melted (The Egyptians used Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter)  
250 g sliced bacon
4 bottles of very dry white wine

Prepare the mahogany plank by coating it with a generous layer of butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and half of the bunch of thyme.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Remove the barbel giblets, heart, pancreas, and other unmentionable, nondescript bits. Rinse the barbel inside and out with milk (It eliminates the distinctive muddy taste that all barbels have.) Remove any excess fat, leftover flippers and fins, and pat the outside dry.

Place the barbel on top of the prepared plank – skin side down.

Liberally salt and pepper the barbel. Dribble with the juice of one lemon and add two halves of garlic.

Cut two of the lemons in quarters and scatter the quarters, thyme, and remaining garlic over and around the barbel. Add freshly ground pepper to taste. Lay the bacon slices over the barbel to cover.
Roast the fish for 1 hour. Remove the bacon slices from the top of the barbel and set aside. Continue roasting the barbel for an additional half an hour, or until the juices run clear when you make a small cut into the meat.

Now for the Grand Finale!

Remove the mahogany plank from the oven, being careful not to burn your fingers. Gently lift the roasted barbel from the plank, and bury it in a shallow grave in your garden.

Now eat the plank.

(You didn’t really think I was going to tell you to eat that bloody, ugly creature from Hell, did you? Well, did you?)

Lastly, rinse your mouth with the four bottles of very dry white wine – to get rid of the mahogany aftertaste. Then drink some whiskey to calm your nerves.


**Perfect Roast Barbel – there is a curse upon this recipe. Whosoever passes it on to anyone else, will kick the bucket until they die from it. That’s how my Granddad came to his untimely end. You have been warned!  


If you don’t hear from me again, you’ll know why. It’s the curse thing, you see?