Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Cured seatrout with lemon puree, peas, baby courgettes and mint

When at the fishmongers, it is always best to try and buy something as big as possible. Not only does this dodge the ethical issue of eating unsustainable, baby fish, but often it will result in a better finished dish. This is particularly the case with whole fish such as sole, turbot, bass, bream and salmon. A larger fish will yield a thicker fillet, which will cook more evenly and be much more succulent and satisfying to eat than little bits and pieces scraped from the bones. 

Of course, buying large fish is often expensive and impractical if you’re not feeding many. But there are a few ways around this problem. Many types of fish when handled correctly will freeze in individual fillet portions really well, creating a few easy dinners in the month to come. Alternatively, you can try curing or preserving the remaining fish. I’ve been particularly enjoying this in the last few months, and see it as an opportunity to create something completely different out of what would be leftovers. It takes minutes of effort and once cured will keep in the fridge for a good few days. Most fresh fish can be prepared in this way; this year alone I’ve had great results with gurnard, brill, salmon and mackerel.
To turn my cured fish into a finished dish, I always consider the final balance of flavour. Oiliness, saltiness, sweetness, sharpness and texture all needs to be judged properly to get the best out of the fish. For this recipe, I’ve used some of the wonderful sweet summer peas and baby courgettes that are right in season at the moment. It really is worth making the effort to shell each little pea properly, as this will remove any bitterness. To counter the sweetness, I’ve made a punchy lemon puree. This stuff is strong, and you certainly don’t need much of it on the finished plate.
As with the last recipe, the seatrout season has now finished (boo!). But good quality salmon will work perfectly in its place, as would a firm white fish such as monkfish, john dory or brill. Just increase or shorten the curing time depending on the thickness and density of the fillet.
Serves 2
For the cured seatrout:
1 thick top end of a seatrout fillet, about 400g, pin-boned 
150g sugar 
150g salt 
A few sprigs of mint 
A few sprigs of tarragon 
1 lemon, zest only
For the lemon puree:
2 Sicilian lemons, peeled 
130g caster sugar 
½ a lemon, juice only 
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the vegetables:
2 large handfuls of fresh British peas 
3 baby courgettes
To finish:
Extra virgin olive oil 
A few sprigs of mint 
A handful of peashoots

First get the seatrout on to cure. Put the sugar and salt in a food processor with the tarragon, mint and lemon zest and blend well until everything is finely chopped. Tip half of it into a dish large enough to snugly fit the seatrout in. Pop the fish on top, then cover with the remaining half of the cure mixture, making sure all sides are covered. Seal the top with clingfilm and refrigerate for 4-6 hours, until the seatrout has firmed up. Rinse the fish well and pat dry with kitchen roll. Remove the skin, then carefully slice into thin ‘D’ cuts. 

While the fish is curing, make the lemon puree. Put the lemons into a saucepan and cover with water. Sprinkle in about 10g of sugar and bring to the boil. Drain the water away, then repeat this process another 7 times, until the lemons are very soft. Transfer the lemons to a food processor and blend into a puree with the lemon juice, some salt and pepper and a teaspoon of the caster sugar. With the motor still running, drizzle in the olive oil until emulsified. Have a taste and adjust if needed, you want it to be quite sharp. Pass through a fine sieve and pour into a plastic bottle. Set aside for plating.
Fill up a saucepan and bring to the boil. While you’re waiting for the water to heat up, pod the peas. Add a little salt to the water and blanche the peas for two minutes, then refresh in a big bowl of cold water. Drain well, then squeeze the shells away from the sweet inner-peas. Dress the peas with a good glug of olive oil and a pinch of seasoning. Trim the baby courgettes and slice into thin rounds, then add to the peas. 

To plate up, arrange some slices of the seatrout onto each plate. Dot a little of the lemon puree around the plate, and scatter over the peas and courgette. Finish with some peashoots, mint leaves and a final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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