If you are ever lucky enough to go on a Pure Salt charter through Fiordland or Stewart Island/Rakiura, you can expect some of the best kaimoana – the food is an absolute highlight of the trip. It’s like heaven! Spending the day fishing, diving or spearfishing, and then having a world-class chef turn your catch into some of the best meals you will likely have all year… is there anything better than that?
A specialty dish they serve involves not just the beautiful butterfish that are all around, but the magnificent bull kelp which is plentiful throughout Fiordland and Stewart Island/Rakiura. Kelp is a thick seaweed that imparts a deep umami flavour. Called kombu in Japan when dried, it is used to make the quintessential Japanese stock – dashi.
So, it makes sense that cooking fish with kelp will deliver some delicious, savoury flavours. While butterfish is ideal for cooking with kelp, other fish species are just as good.
• 2 butterfish, just as the sea provides them
• 1 bull kelp blade
• 1 red onion
• 1 spring onion
• 1 whole head of garlic
• 1 red capsicum
• 1 handful of coriander
• 1 handful of parsley
• 1 orange
• 1 chilli
• 1 lemon
• Sea salt
• Olive oil
• Cracked pepper
• Rice vinegar
• Rice bran oil
• Honey
For the pebre sauce: Finely dice the red onion, half a head of garlic, the capsicum, half of the spring onion and the coriander (yeah, we know it’s hard to dice that one…) and place them in a small saucepan. Add a pinch of salt, a dash of vinegar, cover with oil (3 parts rice bran, 1 part olive) and put on very low heat for about 5 minutes, just to bring the aromas together. Let it cool down and go fishing!
For the orange emulsion: Peel the orange and place it in a blender together with the other half of the spring onion, the rest of the garlic, a full scoop of honey, the parsley, the chilli (make sure you clean the seeds and stem away!) and 1 full cup of rice oil. Add another dash of the rice vinegar and blend like no one is watching. It will look like a proper sauce when you stop. Now go find the bull kelp!
Bringing it together: 
1) Once you have it all, cut the kelp blade in half and carefully open it through the middle with the help of a fishing knife. Doing this from one side, but not going all the way through, will make it take a bag form. You’ll have to make two bags.
2) Gut and scale both the fish, making sure all the scales are gone! Then do small shallow cuts on each side of each fish, just to let them absorb more flavour.
3) Salt and pepper each butterfish and place them inside each bag. Carefully pour 5 tablespoons of one sauce into one bag and repeat with the other sauce in the other bag. Make sure each fish is well covered in their respective sauce, then add a few thin slices of lemon and close the kelp bag securely. This can be done with a skewer through both sides of the opening of the kelp bag.
4) Cook on a covered medium-hot BBQ straight on the grill or in the oven at 200°C for around 30-40 minutes until the butterfish is cooked through.
5) Once cooked, cut open the bag and serve the fish straight on the kelp. If you’re lucky, some kelp will crisp up like pork crackling! These are the best bits.
Now dig in and enjoy!