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As the fish of the day might suggest, I am in the more temperate climes of the land down under.  Melbourne seems such a melting pot of culture and cuisine with lots of fresh Tasmanian produce and it is lovely to experience the blossoming springtime, after such a seasonless stint in the tropics.  I’m here to cook up a storm for my amazing cousin (and her sister) as she battles her chemo, so over the next months a lot of cancer fighting ‘super foods’ will be featured – just how many recipes can I come up with that contain cruciferous veggies?  Today, my ‘Masterchef’ challenge was to concoct a dish with these three rather handsome fellas.

North Pacific rainbow trout were introduced into Aussie waters well over a century ago.  They’ve since outcompeted and munched their way through many of the smaller native freshwater fishes ( like Tasmanian galaxiids) but popularity with anglers saves them being considered as pests.  Like salmon, trout are oily fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A, with a delicate yet distinctive flavour.  My mum always pairs trout with flaked almonds, but as we are on a vitamin extravaganza, I threw celery, fennel and oranges into the mix.

Three rosemary salt-rubbed trout packed nicely into our cast-iron pot, nestled atop a bed of fennel, celery, fennel seeds, chilli flakes and orange slices.  The trout were crammed in like sardines so it took forty minutes for the flesh to turn perfectly opaque, but as a guideline a trout on a baking tray should take more or less twenty minutes to cook to perfection.  It’s done when the flesh flakes easily when prodded with a fork.

The fennel and celery slowly braise in the white wine and citrus juices to provide an instant accompaniment, but I love trout with a vibrant citrusy beetroot, carrot and fennel salad. It’s one of my favourite salads and whenever I make it I mutter to myself that one day I’ll have a food processor that makes the tedious grating less of a chore!  Pumpkin seeds give the salad even more of a crunch and don’t forget to toast up some buttery flaked almonds to spoon over the fish just before serving.  Healthy food can be delicious as well as nutritious!

RECIPE: BAKED TROUT WITH ALMOND, FENNEL AND ORANGE

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

2 whole rainbow trout (organic if farmed)

2 bay leaves

2 bulbs of thinly sliced fennel

4 finely sliced celery stalks

One orange sliced

2 teaspoons of fennel seeds

A dried chilli or two

Rosemary salt-rub (or rosemary or thyme infused salt)

A glass of white wine (optional)

The juice of an orange and a lemon

A grinding of black pepper

A drizzle of olive oil or a knob of butter

A handful of flaked almonds

INSTRUCTIONS:  Rub the fish with a rosemary or thyme salt-rub and stuff the cavity with the fennel tops, celery leaves, bay leaf and a slice of orange and lemon.  Arrange the fennel and celery in a casserole dish with a lid (or you can use foil) and scatter the fennel seeds, dried chilli, pepper, salt, orange and lemon juice and white wine on top.  Season and mix before laying the trout on top with a couple more slices of orange.  Drizzle olive oil or smear a knob of butter on top of each fish, put on the lid and bake in a moderate oven for half an hour.  Toast the flaked almonds in a bit of butter (or olive oil) to sprinkle over the trout on serving.

The trout may need ten minutes more if they are tightly packed or the pot is cast iron, so just check on them by using a fork to see if the flesh flakes easily.  Cooking time really does depend on the dish and size of trout so it’s better to check early rather than risk overcooking.  As a guideline, a single fish on a baking tray should take about twenty minutes to cook.  You can serve the trout along with the braised fennel and celery underneath, but I also like to add a splash of colour with a beetroot, carrot and fennel salad.

RECIPE:  BEETROOT, CARROT AND FENNEL SALAD

Serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS:

For the salad

1 large or 2 medium raw beetroots, peeled and grated

2 carrots, peeled and grated

A bulb of fennel, thinly sliced

A teaspoon of fennel seeds

A teaspoon of lemon zest

A teaspoon of thyme or rosemary

A sprinkling of sea salt and a grinding of pepper

Juice of a lemon

A generous handful of pumpkin and sunflower seeds

For the dressing

A teaspoon of honey

Two teaspoons of wholegrain mustard

3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

A tablespoon of olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:  Mix together the ingredients for the dressing, season and toss into the salad.  Mix well and it’s ready to serve so enjoy!

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