Seared River Test Trout with Watercress, Capers and Pancetta

wilbure20111102_0063With some of the best, world famous Trout fishing to be had right here on our doorsteps on the Test around Stockbridge, we are spoilt for sporting opportunities and memorable days by the river. To ensure a fitting tribute to our catch that can be enjoyed year round, although best when caught fresh that day, Alan created this delicious recipe. The subtly earthy fish is complimented beautifully by the crunchy, salty ham, and balanced by the rich wine emulsion.

Serves 4 as a starter, or two for a light lunch or supper, preparation time approximately 30 mins, the garnish and emulsion can be prepared in advance

1 very fresh brown or rainbow trout, roughly 1lb in weight, scaled, filleted and pin boned
3 sprigs of thyme, 1/2 crushed clove of garlic
Juice of one orange
1 large shallot, very finely diced
50ml rape seed oil
1 tsp sherry vinegar
Fine sea salt to taste

wilbure20111102_0067For the garnish

1 bunch of watercress, picked to small sprigs and well washed
1 vine tomato, peeled, de-seeded and finely diced
1 tbsp washed baby capers
8 strips of pancetta
75ml ruby port
75ml Madeira
1tsp unsalted butter

Begin with the trout; divide each fillet into two equal portions, checking that all the fine pin bones have been removed. Score the skin of the fish lightly with a very sharp knife, approximately 5mm apart, then pat dry using a paper towel or new j-cloth, which will ensure a crispy finish to the skin.

Next lay the sliced pancetta flat on a baking sheet lined with silicon paper, season well with freshly ground black pepper, top with another sheet of silicon paper and another baking tray to weigh it down, then place in a pre-heated oven at 180c for 12 minutes, or until the pancetta is golden brown, transfer to a wire cooling rack until serving. Don’t worry if it is not completely crisp at this point, it will become more so as it cools.

To make the wine emulsion, combine the port and Madeira in a small heavy based saucepan, and reduce to approximately 25ml of syrupy liquid, before whisking in the butter, and seasoning to taste with a pinch of salt. This can be done well in advance of serving, but must be kept covered and slightly warm or it may split.

wilbure20111102_0066To assemble the dish

Heat the rape seed oil in a large heavy based frying pan until almost smoking, lightly season the trout portions and then place skin side down in the hot oil with the crushed garlic and thyme, allowing approximately 45 seconds of cooking time for every centimeter of thickness, before carefully turning the fish using a metal slice or spatula, and cooking for a further 30 seconds on the flesh side. The fish itself is not to be cooked through, it should remain slightly rare in the middle with a light and crispy finish to the skin.
Add the diced shallot, sweat for a few seconds, add the sherry vinegar and orange juice, then baste the fish portions with the liquor that has now formed in the pan. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for 2-3 minutes while you prepare the garnish.

In a large mixing bowl combine the capers, diced tomato and watercress, a generous spoonful of the cooking liquor, and half of the pancetta crisps, lightly crushed, and a touch of salt and pepper.

Divide two thirds of the salad into the center of the serving plates, top with the warmed trout, then divide the remaining salad on top of the fish. Top each with a slice of pancetta, then dress with a little of the wine emulsion and the remaining juices from the pan, serve immediately.