Catch of the Month


I am on a fishing trip to Canada this month and we have been catching Cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden along with the sea going pretty pink striped Rainbow trout - Steelhead. Apart from the Rainbow - none of these species are readily available in the UK... but it has turned my thoughts to Rainbow trout and that is ALWAYS available at Billingsgate - all of which is farmed in the UK.

Over 50% of the seafood that we eat now is farmed and we are often asked about aquaculture practices. Farming fish is an excellent way of taking pressure off wild stocks, but in some cases farming practices have gained a bad reputation over the years. Today farming practices have developed and refined, so many species are farmed responsibly.

Rainbow trout was introduced into the UK from the USA well over 100 years ago, it is quick to grow and although it doesn't breed naturally in the UK, it was used to stock ponds and now for farming as it is a robust species of fish that grows rapidly. The UK indigenous species is brown trout, which is a popular fish with sports fishermen and this is a close relation of the Atlantic salmon. Rainbow trout is closely related to the Pacific species of salmon including Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Pink and Chum - all uniquely different. 

It is good value for money and always on the market - so a good staple. It is harvested to order, so these fish are usually found still 'stiff alive' (rigor mortis) - so you can get a good shelf-life bought directly from the market. You can buy it 'round' (meaning un-gutted) and cleaned - ready to cook and a handful of merchants sell it ready filleted. As it is relatively inexpensive, it is usually only sold by the 3kg box - but great to stock up the freezer and if carefully wrapped they will freeze (gutted and wrapped individually in a double layer of freezer bags) well for a few weeks.

Trout has a reputation for being a little earthy in flavour. Fish that is raised on clean gravel will have a much cleaner taste and fish available at Billingsgate will be farmed with this in mind.
We often use trout in our courses, but the soft bones make it challenging to fillet for the inexperienced. They are a freshwater species too, which inevitably makes them quite slimy. To prepare a whole ungutted fish: give a good wash with a brush under running cold water. Scale the fish using a scaler or the back of a knife then rinse again. Gut the fish and remove the gills. The blood line running close to the backbone is the kidney function of the fish and is particularly unpleasant and bitter, so take care to clean this away - first scraping with a back of a knife and then wipe residue away with a cloth. Trout has lots of fine bones so we think it is best cooked on the bone as these are easy to locate once the fish is cooked.

Arguably the best known recipe for trout is Truite Armandine (Trout with Almonds). The fish is either rolled in seasoned flour and pan-fried - which is challenging as it is tricky turning the fish half-way through cooking (it tears easily!) or simply roasted in the oven until cooked. The fish is then finished with beurre noisette... brown butter with almonds and finished with parsley and lemon juice. The nuts and lemon cut through potential earthiness of the fish and enhances the wonderful moist flakes.

The fins of a trout are soft, but tend to stick and get in the way when pan-frying or just burn under the grill - so trim these away with scissors. The dorsal spine can be left on and removed with a knife once the fish is cooked. Decide whether you want to leave the head on or off. The tiny piece of meat in the cheek - often known as the pearl - is particularly delicious - so we suggest leaving the head on. The eye turns white during cooking and is often used as a indicator that the fish is cooked... but some find a white eye a little disconcerting. Whole fish is best either grilled or roasted and fillets pan-fried or grilled. The fish is cooked when the skin pulls away easily and the flesh flakes - and the eye is white...

Pan-fried Trout fillets with Toasted Hazelnut Pistou (serves 2)

Make the Pistou: Heat 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and add 4 tbsp roughly chopped hazelnuts, Stir over a medium heat until the nuts are just beginning to brown. Add 1 finely chopped garlic clove and 2 tbsp chopped parsley and cook for a further 30 seconds. Remove the nuts from the heat and add 1 tbsp chopped capers and grated zest and juice of 1 lime. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Set aside while you cook the fish.

Roll 4 trout fillets in seasoned flour. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil and 1 tbsp butter in a frying pan. Once the butter has stopped sizzling add the fish fillets, skin-side down, reduce the heat under the frying pan and cook for 2 minutes. Turn the fish over and cook for a further 2 minutes or until the skin lifts away easily from the fillet and the flesh flakes. Lift the fish onto a plate and drizzle with the hazelnut dressing. Serve with new potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

CJ Jackson
CEO Billingsgate Seafood School