FISH FRIDAYS WITH CHEF JP
Chef JP has gone fishing. Today’s catch is a fresh rainbow trout. Find out what he did with it…
Remember, back in the day, Friday was always the day when many families traditionally served fish. For some, it was a religious thing, for others just an excuse to enjoy the wonderful flavours of seafood and for the poms, well, a good excuse to order in some fish and chips.
I don’t believe anyone needs an excuse to enjoy fish – although many people shy away from it simply because they’re not that familiar with cooking it. With the price of food soaring – especially that of red meat – we have decided that fish is a good and far healthier option when it comes to serving up protein. That’s why we’ve decided to throw in the odd FISH FRIDAY – to share some cooking tips and help you enjoy what you can hook either directly from our waterways (if you are so inclined) or at your local supermarket or fishmonger.
This time round, we’re trouting and I’m going to prepare a whole fresh rainbow trout, creating four delicious meals that will make your mouths water… fresh water, that is.
FISHING BACK IN TIME
Living in Cape Town sure had its perks – weekends away, crayfishing, oyster shucking and braaing snoek on the beach. Now living on the East Coast, I am not only drawn to the sea but also to freshwater fare, especially the trout that are found in many of the stunning dams in the KZN Midlands as well as Mpumalanga.
20 years ago, I spent a lot of time on weekends at a girlfriend’s trout farm. Called Verlorenkloof and located just outside Dullstroom, I found myself not only falling love, but also in love with fresh trout.
I went trout fishing every Saturday and, even though I am an extremely patient chef who can do four-hour potjies, when I have to wait for my food, it’s a completely different story. If the fish aren’t biting, I’ll dunk my rod and crack open a bottle of wooded chardonnay.
Back in the day, whether in land or on the coast, fish were plentiful. The sad truth is that our own greed has led to over fishing and we have emptied our oceans and waterways – our aquatic larder if you will – of the many fish that we often took for granted. So, we have to state from the outset that we support marine conservation, we abhor over fishing and raping our oceans of endangered species and we only shop at reputable fish suppliers and take care to buy fish that has the nod of approval from the SASSI guide – green means you are buying sustainable fish so tuck in, orange asks you think twice and red is a no-no as you are purchasing a fish that is threatened or even endangered and you need to avoid it altogether.
As an aside, there’s even a SASSI App which you can download to your phone so that you can do a quick check before you head to the till.
Better still, buy your fish from a fish farm. that’s not a new phenomenon but certainly one that is even more important than ever.
Once you’ve worked your way through the environmental issues, actually choosing the right fish is not easy. In fact, buying fresh fish is a bit like choosing the right diamond ring. It has to be perfect.
Having had a Dad who was a part time fisherman – which, incidentally, my Mom hated, because he disappeared for days and the old brown sherry was missing again… – means I know a fair amount about picking out the right one.
Catching fish yourself is one thing, but shopping is a completely different kettle of fish as the obvious cliché goes. One thing that you do need to be aware of is that fish on ice is good for two days max. But, the ultimate test is the fish eyes. When they don’t shine like a diamond, order some chicken!
OVER THE RAINBOW
My trip to my local fishmonger came with a special surprise – some delightful fresh trout! It has been a while, I admit and I usually end up buying fresh trout from a deli when I’m Out & About in the countryside. When I saw this one with its dramatic pink flesh, nested in a firm skin, all my senses were on high alert and I couldn’t wait to get it back to my kitchen station at home.
To start off, I let my trout rest in some coarse sea salt to absorb any impurities for about 20 minutes. then I rinsed it in lukewarm water. I planned to make three funkee dishes and started off by cooking the whole trout over some hot coals.
FROM THE FISHY PANTRY:
This is an ingredient list for all your dishes. I will individually get you hooked on the individual recipes as we go.
800g to 1 kg fresh rainbow trout
Mooi River butter
a garlic bruschetta
a packet of almonds
1 small bottle of capers
a fennel sprig
1 large beetroot
salt and pepper
a bunch of baby rocket
a bottle or two of good wine
After prepping our trout, we are ready to cook. The problem here was that my wonderful catch didn’t fit into my pan – and, trust me, I have 24 of them – so I opted for a potjie. (With the added advantage of telling you how to cook your trout when you are out camping beside a dam or a river).
So, I started a fire and oiled my cast iron pot with 250 g of Mooi River butter and 50 ml oil. Then I gently placed my trout in the pot, adding some sliced lemon and 10 ml of fish sauce and a cup of vino, to add liquidity to the mix.
I seared the skin for two per side and then covered with a lid to lock in those glorious natural flavours.
To me, when cooking with any fish or seafood, the trick is to keep things simple. Let the fish or crustacean share their natural flavours during the cooking process.
After about 15 minutes, your rainbow will be ready to serve. As a garnish, I add some capers and dry fry some almonds in a separate pan, adding some fennel and plenty of love.
Just remember that trout is a very delicate fish, so the meat is extremely flaky and there are a few small bones, so warn your guests who are not aware of that as you dish up.
Because I’m on the East Coast, I find it quite fun to serve some of meals on a banana leaf. the added advantage is that it also keeps the fish moist, as there are so many natural oils in a banana leaf. Don’t forget the garlic bread and, of course, that glass of chilled chardonnay.
FISH ON THE SIDE
When all is said and done, I confess that I do have quite a creative bone in me – not just a flaky one, – so here are some ideas that you can make from the leftovers, if there are any, of course.
I admit that I doubted I’d have that luxury so I actually bought another fillet.
Although I love being creative with so-called leftovers, I am quite fussy nevertheless. You can ask my friends, for me, that has to happen on the same day. I never eat anything from the day before.
So, using what you have, here are some ideas for the rest of your colourful day.
TROUT ON BRUSCHETTA WITH A BITE
This is a sneaky side with a cooked fillet, bones removed, and some dry pan fried almonds and brown butter confit, capers, and crème fraiche.
Grill your garlic bruschetta and, simultaneously, grill a few slices of beetroot. Place your small pieces of trout on top with some fresh peppery rocket leaves the enhance the flavour. I made a confit of crème fraiche, butter and and 2 Tablespoons of horseradish to add a little bite.
A nice touch is a garnish is a medium to hard cooked egg, with a touch of beetroot sprigs.
TROUT ROUND CAKES
Roll the shredded leftovers in to small balls, drown them in an egg dip and cover them in breadcrumbs. When your oil is ready at 170°C, dip them and wait for them to go golden brown. Let them rest on a paper towel and serve up with some added colour in the form of some yellow Romana tomatoes and some oyster sauce.
Although making a terrine is first prize, it is also quite time consuming so I have opted for a simple mousse at the end of a long day.
FROM THE PANTRY:
120 grams shredded trout
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons horse radish
2 teaspoons lemon juice
8/10 capers/ diced
a few fresh chives
salt and pepper to taste
25 grams crème fraiche
Add together all of your ingredients together and mix in a food processor for a few seconds until you have a creamy texture. then add 2 grams of xantum gum as a binder and heat the mix for 1 minute, stirring vigorously.
Press into a square mould and set cool in the freezer for 10 minutes. Serve with some lemon balm and fresh lemon.
So, the end of this fishy tale is that you can expect more FISH FRIDAYS! In fact, if I could leave a yellow sticker on my fridge door every morning stating – GONE FISHING HONEY – I probably would.
Then again, maybe not… unless, of course, I have a case of my favourite chardonnay.