Wild sea trout is a rare treat and, paired with the plentiful, invasive signal crayfish, it makes for a glamorous summer cocktail, says Rose Prince. Serves four.
The summer treat that is wild sea trout is one I’ve always anticipated with relish. The heavy restrictions on sea trout fishing in British rivers mean that a meal of this delicately flavoured salmonid has become a rare speciality.
Over the many years that I’ve avoided farmed salmon, on the basis that rearing it is environmentally destructive, eating wild sea trout has been, for me at least, a sustainable alternative — yet only for a very short season. Anglers and fishermen choose to fish for them only in the few weeks when they are in perfect condition, meaning that the eating quality of the fish changes during its life cycle.
The months of June and July are the optimum time to find a sea trout. While we might not all have the opportunity to fish for sea trout, it is possible to buy sustainably caught wild sea trout. Eating signal crayfish on the other hand causes no ethical quandaries. Many rivers teem with these rust-coloured North American aliens.
Man’s stupidity when it comes to moving things around knows no bounds. He decided to bring the North American version…
They are a naturalised population derived from crayfish farm escapees. Their success has come at the expense of the indigenous white-clawed crayfish population, too many of which have perished from a crayfish plague carried by signal crayfish — from which the non-native species does not suffer.
Neither anglers nor the river authorities have much affection for these greedy, invasive creatures, but from a cook’s point of view, they do taste delicious, so we can love them for that. And they have far fewer air miles than expensive and often tasteless imported prawns.
A river-themed cocktail of soft flakes of sea trout and the slightly chewier crayfish tails is a fun and glamorous dish to build. Once made, it will travel, but only for a few hours. So, if put in a glass jar with a lid, it is a gorgeous picnic item with a glass of white wine. Wild crayfish are available here. Seasonal wild sea trout here.
Recipe for wild sea trout and crayfish cocktail
For the poaching liquid: 1 litre of water, mixed with 1 tSP white wine vinegar (or lemon juice), a few black peppercorns, ¼ of an onion (sliced) and 1 dsp salt 500g fresh sea trout fillet
For the vermouth Marie Rose sauce:
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 200ml groundnut or grapeseed oil
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp Tomato puree
- 2 tsp Vermouth Salt
- 250g cooked crayfish tails
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp chopped chives
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of sea salt
- 2 Cos or Romaine lettuce hearts, sliced into ribbons
- 8 radishes, thinly sliced
- 3 hard-boiled eggs
- Cayenne pepper
- Put all the ingredients for the poaching liquid into a shallow pan and place over a low heat. Cut the sea trout fillet into 4cm slices and place in the pan, skin side down. When the water comes to the boil, turn off the heat and leave the pan to cool (about 20 minutes). The fish should be perfectly cooked, if a little undercooked in the middle. Remove the fish slices from the liquid, take off the skin and separate the fish into flakes. Set aside.
- To make the sauce, put the egg yolks in a bowl and beat in the mustard. Gradually add the oil, a few drops at a time, whisking in between, until it is a thick emulsion. Add the lemon juice, tomato puree and vermouth, plus a pinch of salt.
- Dress the crayfish tails with the olive oil, lemon juice, chives, black pepper and salt. It is now time to ‘build’ the cocktail in a glass tumbler or jam jar. First, put a generous layer of shredded lettuce in the base of each jar, followed by the sliced radish. Chop the egg whites and scatter them on top of the lettuce. Grate the egg yolks on top of the whites, then add a layer of sea trout flakes. Top with the marinated crayfish tails and, finally, add a good amount of the sauce. Throw a pinch of cayenne pepper over each cocktail and serve with plenty of buttered brown bread. If you are taking the cocktails on a picnic, take the sauce in a separate container to add on location and make sure to keep all the components in a cool bag.