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March 5, 2014

Whole garfish with capers and herbs

Maybe it's because she is our first female contender, or maybe it's not because of any such gender stereotypes, but Natalie Homan faced off against the public bbq more prepared than most. for her stint in the sun, she came armed.

  • Chef: Natalie Homan
  • Art direction: Carlo Jensen
  • Pictures: Andy Nowell
  • Videography: Tim Spreadbury
  • Words: Farrin Foster

Admittedly, Natalie’s weapon wasn’t too intimidating. Wielding a roll of baking paper and what looked to be small pieces of broken pottery, she foiled the BBQ’s plan to stick to her delicate garfish.

Spreading the baking paper over a section of the hotplate and weighing it down against the wind with the (perhaps) pottery, Natalie was able to calmly cook the garfish and hold a conversation that was punctuated with very few profanities.

“The baking paper thing turned out pretty well,” she laughs. “It’s something I’ve noticed works in cafés. It has a non-stick element and keeps things from getting overly hot – but make sure you bring some little weights as well.”

Apothecary head chef Natalie Homan

Apothecary head chef Natalie Homan

In her kitchen at the Apothecary – where she is head chef working alongside her husband who takes up the mantle of sous chef – Natalie doesn’t need to resort to tampering with her equipment. The high-end restaurant and wine bar is known for its top quality menu and hard-to-get local and international wines.

“We describe the food as modern European with most dishes based on French and Italian technique and principles,” Natalie says.

“Most dishes are wine friendly in that we are not heavy handed with spices and chili. Our general aim is to provide tasty fare in a relaxed bistro style environment – I guess that’s what I call simple.  We encourage our diners to share dishes to provide them with a well-rounded experience.”

Natalie has worked at the Apothecary for almost a decade, and chose to cook garfish on the public BBQ because it reminded her how far food knowledge has come in that time. As well as being a seasonally appropriate fish – gar is best eaten in autumn – the service of whole fish was considered a bit too confronting until quite recently, she says.

“I was just thinking about it, and thought that when I started at Apothecary putting a whole fish on the menu wouldn’t have gone down too well,” she says. “Eating habits have really changed, people are a lot more adventurous. People are generally a lot more interested in food, especially when it comes to fish – people are more conscious of using local fish and sustainable fish, too.”

The whole fish - tastes delish!

The whole fish – tastes delish!

Natalie was the first of our chefs to try out her wares at a different location. This BBQ, located near the kiosk in Rymill Park, is certainly in a very picturesque location, but it was a little more temperamental (and a lot dirtier) than our ol’ faithful on South Terrace.

Thankfully, as well as bringing baking paper, Natalie had also considered the spirit of cooking on a public BBQ before heading out, and decided that a day of picnicking in the sun shouldn’t be characterised by hours of cooking.

“I wanted to show that – like with the salad, which is actually something we feature on our menu – you can see that there’s a lot you can prepare beforehand,” she says. “It’s good to be prepared and do most things beforehand and so you can actually spend the day enjoying yourself.”

As Natalie relaxes by the Rymill Park lake, we begin tasting a dish so good that even the ducks are trying to get a piece of the action, and easily conclude that the BBQ never had a chance of beating this opponent.


BBQ’d whole garfish with caper and herb dressing


* Whole garfish (allow 3-4 per person)

* Olive oil

* Garlic, thinly sliced

* Lemon zest


For the dressing

* Dill, picked

* Salted baby capers, soaked and rinsed

* Lemon juice

* Olive oil

* Sea salt and cracked pepper


Stop fish sticking to the BBQ with grease-proof paper

Stop fish sticking to the BBQ with grease-proof paper


Ask your fishmonger to gut and scale your fish (or have a go yourself).

Marinate in olive oil, garlic and lemon zest for at least a couple of hours.

Combine dressing ingredients to taste.

Preheat barbecue to very hot. Season fish and cook until nicely charred on each side and cooked through.

Plate and spoon-over dressing.

Freekeh, pickled heirloom tomato and charred eggplant salad


* 1 cup cooked freekeh

* 1 large eggplant, whole roasted, skin removed and flesh shredded

* Handful pickled heirloom tomato, steeped in brine for one week

* Crisp flatbread, brush with olive oil, season with sumac and dry out in low oven, or quickly grill on BBQ

* Torn flat leaf parsley and mint

* Olive oil

* Lemon juice

* Sea salt and cracked pepper



Combine freekeh, eggplant, olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning in bowl.

Break up flatbread and add to bowl along with the herbs, toss well.  Plate and scatter with the tomatoes.

Rose geranium and lemon cordial


* 1kg caster sugar

* 500ml water

* Handful rose geranium leaves

* Juice of six lemons

* Pink food colouring (optional but adds a nice touch)

* Mineral water

* Tonic water

* Ice

Rose geranium and lemon cordial

Rose geranium and lemon cordial


Place sugar, water and leaves in saucepan and simmer until sugar dissolves.

Allow to cool, remove leaves and add lemon juice and colouring if using.

Store cordial in refrigerator for three to four days.  For longer lasting cordial replace some of the lemon juice with tartaric acid (15ml).

To serve place a good quantity of ice in a jug, pour over some cordial (start with about 100ml) and mineral and tonic water (I do half / half).  Stir and have a taste, adjust accordingly.

Garnish with rose geranium flowers and leaves.



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