The UK is renowned for both its brown and rainbow trout, readily available throughout the year. We spoke to Vale House Kitchen owner and keen fisherman, Bod Griffiths, about the journey of the trout from ‘tide to table’.
“There’s something really quite magical about trout. I have spent many a day strolling along a river bank or side of a lake stealthily stalking them with a fly rod in hand. They are prized the world over, found in every continent except Antarctica, for their sporting prowess and culinary excellence.
In the UK there are two main types of trout. Our native brown trout and also the rainbow trout.
Brown trout are found in rivers and lakes and vary both in size and colour depending on the environment they are living in. Those fish living in fast flowing rivers and streams use considerable energy swimming against the current, defending their territory called a lie. This will offer them security from predators and access to food carried to them on the current. Those living in lakes are generally less territorial and have to travel further afield to find food. Some brown trout decide to leave the river they hatch in and travel to the sea – they are then referred to as sea trout. Sea trout take on a bright silver colour, not dissimilar to salmon, and grow much larger than their river cousins due to a higher abundance of food, and feeding on other small fish, sand eels, crabs, shrimps and prawns.
Rainbow trout eggs were first shipped to England in the late 1800s from their native North America. They were artificially hatched and introduced to British waters, and now make up the mainstay of trout you find in stocked lakes. Rainbow trout rarely breed naturally in the UK. They grow twice as quickly as brown trout and are an ideal fish to breed in fish farms. They are the most common type of trout that you will encounter at the fishmonger or supermarket. Here at Vale House Kitchen we like to use organically farmed trout from Stream Farm in Bridgewater. They are fed on organic pellets, allowed to grow in stream-fed lakes and are delicious.”
How do you go about getting a trout for the table?
Apart from buying trout from your local supermarket, fly fishing is probably the most common way to source trout with around 800,000 people participating in the sport every year in the UK. This involves casting a ‘fly’ made from feathers, thread and other materials that is made to look like the trouts natural food. By tricking the trout into thinking it is something they would normally eat you are able to catch them. Sadly, it isn’t always this easy, as trout are a very wily and cunning adversary. In old English folklore it is said that you are able to tickle a trout from the water; by creeping up on one, sliding a hand underneath it and tickling its belly the trout will go into a trance, allowing you to grab hold of it and scoop it from the water.
Trout are available all year round and if you are going to buy one, try and find an organic supplier.
Vale House Kitchen’s five favourite ways with trout…
1) Sashimi. If you have a particularly fresh trout, fillet it and use it as sashimi. Cut the fresh fish into small slices, dip in soya sauce and English mustard, and eat immediately.
2) Curing – make a 50% salt, 50% sugar mix and add whatever aromatics you feel happy with. Cover this mixture over your trout fillets for 20–30 minutes, rinse off and you have wonderful cured trout. Slice the flesh into pound coin-thick slices, leaving the skin behind, drizzle with a little rapeseed oil and serve with a few salad leaves.
3) Once you have your cured trout fillets go one step further. Hot smoke your trout (hot smokers are easy to buy online or you can make one yourself) by placing your cured fillet in the smoker for around 10–15 minutes. The trout fillets will take on the wonderful smoky flavour of the wood you have used (beech or oak are our favourites).
4) When you have your smoked trout fillets they make an ideal substitute for smoked salmon at breakfast. Pan fry in a little butter until hot and serve with scrambled eggs.
5) If you want to eat your fish whole, the best way I find is to cook it in foil. Stuff the cavity of your fish with fresh herbs (oregano and dill are perfect), drizzle rapeseed oil onto the skin, squeeze over the juice of a lemon and add a splash of white wine. Wrap the trout up in foil and place in a hot oven for around 20–25 minutes, depending on the size of your fish.
Check the Vale House Kitchen website for courses in fly fishing and fish cookery this spring; www.valehousekitchen.co.uk