I think medical science has a lot answer for. Before the proliferation of ‘advice’ such as you should not eat this or that, and if you are to drink coffee then it must be decaffeinated, skinny, soy, de-leaded, de-flavoured and de-coffeed or else you will only live for the next 12 seconds, people had no guilt about eating things like butter, cheese, lard, dripping, eggs etc.. Now we have diets of flaxseed infused quinoa with water reduction, and have been convinced that aspartame (that sweet stuff) is ‘better’ for us than natural sugar. Balderdash, I say. In moderation we should enjoy the food that nature has supplied and not live in guilt. But you know what? You can still eat healthily and have food that packs bags and bags of flavour.
So, today at the fishmongers two beautiful looking sea trout were conversing about the pros and cons of quantum marine physics when one caught my eye, winked and said “come over here me old china plate (mate) – we’re healthy and tasty me and Fred (sic) and we fancy being bedazzled with some crazily great ingredients and then consumed by your lovely wife and yourself”. Not one to look a gift fish in the mouth, I quickly snapped them up and tootled off home, seriously disturbed at the notion of talking fish. It is only when I go them home did I realise that they had been divulging too much in the old seaweed wine and were pickled before I had even reached for the cider vinegar.
Uttering not another word it was time to see what Fred and his mate (never did catch his name) were all about, and thus came in to existence pickled sea trout with soy, lime and ginger dressing, served with rocket, fennel and asparagus salad – with a bit of a bang.
Serves: 2 as a main meal | Preparation: 1 hour marinade + 30 minutes preparation | Cooking: 10 minutes
2 medium Trout/ sea trout | When filleted gives about 300g each of flesh. Rainbow Trout or Mackerel are excellent substitutes.
For the Pickle Marinade
250ml Cider vinegar |
250ml Water |
1 medium Red onion | Sliced.
4 slices Lemon |
6 stalks Coriander | A nice intense flavour in the stalks makes them great for marinating.
40g Caster sugar |
1 tsp. Juniper berries | Fragrant berries that are a distant relative of pine.
½ tsp. Szechuan peppercorns | These impart a magical tingling sensation on the tongue.
1 tbsp. Olive oil |
For the dressing
1 tbsp. Soy sauce | I use a medium soy sauce – e.g. Kikkoman.
1 tbsp. Water |
1 lime Lime juice |
1 tsp. Fresh ginger | Finely julienned (matchsticks).
½ tsp. Dark Muscovado sugar | A soft brown sugar is good as a substitute.
For the salad
A bunch Rocket | A bunch is a good handful.
2 Baby fennel | Finely sliced.
About 9 or 10 Asparagus tips | Blanched for 1 minute in boiling water and then immediately immersed in iced water to stop them cooking further.
½ lime Lime juice |
1 tsp. Sea salt |
1 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns |
1 tbsp. Olive oil | Extra virgin for its light and fruity flavour.
Start by filleting the trout if you have bought them whole. Ensure that you pin bone the fillets by running your finger along the flesh a few times to feel for them.
To prepare the pickle, add to a pan the cider vinegar, water, sliced red onion, lemon slices, coriander stalks, Szechuan peppercorns, juniper berries and olive oil. Over heat, bring the temperature of the pickle to about 60 deg C (140 deg F) and then pour in to wide rectangular dish, such as a lasagne dish. Place the trout fillets in the pickle flesh side down, and leave to marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, for the dressing add to a small bowl the soy sauce, water, lime juice, ginger and sugar and then mix well until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
For the salad, place the finely sliced baby fennel in a bowl of iced water for 20 minutes and then drain and pat dry. This will ensure the fennel is beautifully crunchy. To a mortar add the sea salt and Szechuan peppercorns and grind with the pestle until powdered. This is a variation on what is known as Chinese gunpowder – a salty spicy tingle.
To a large bowl add the blanched asparagus tips, rocket, baby fennel, lime juice, Chinese gunpowder and olive oil. Mix well by hand – it’s the best way.
After an hour is up carefully remove the trout fillets from the pickle, pat dry with paper towel and then score the skin diagonally – about 3 or 4 scores per fillet. Place the fish on a well-oiled baking sheet, skin side up. Under a medium to hot grill, grill the fish for 5-7 minutes until the skin is crispy and the fish is cooked. Personally, I have the grill on high and then place the baking sheet about 5 inches (12.5cm) from the grill. This ensures that I don’t burn the skin and that the balance of cooking the fish and crisping the skin is just about perfect.
To serve, place the salad on a plate and then carefully place a fillet on top of the salad. Spoon some of the soy, lime and ginger dressing over the fish. Just to be ‘chefy’ I only serve one fillet to start with, and then tuck into the second one once the niceties of plating are over.
- Want something fantastic to add to sandwiches? Once you have removed the trout from the pickle, leave the pickle for another 12 hours, drain and discard the lemon, coriander stalks, peppercorns and juniper berries. You’ll be left with an amazing pickled red onion that still has a little bite. Absolutely fantastic with roast beef sandwiches.