Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Odd Ingredient

I've got a mate who lives for the fishing down here in Tas. He is, not to put too fine a point on it, mad for the trout. Loves it.

The thing is, he loves stalking the things and catching them more than he loves eating them. Not that he's averse to fanging the odd salmonid, no -- but that sometimes, he hooks one or two more than he can readily eat on his own.

Thus it was that this morning, roundabout 0930, my mate John E swaggered proudly into Chez Flinthart bearing a plastic shopping bag with a couple fish in it. One of the two was a respectable half-kilo or so of trouty goodness. The other was a very fine kilo-plus piece of fish, and John was of the opinion that there was no way he'd be able to do justice to the big bugger.

So, for the price of a decent cup of coffee and some friendly conversation, I acquired one very fresh, wild, lake-bred Rainbow Trout. I promised Natalie I'd cook it for her that evening, after I got back from ju-jitsu training. She was well chuffed.

Unfortunately, I forgot we'd raided the larder heavily for the visit from Dave Sag the night before, so I had to improvise a little. And yet -- when the regular ingredients aren't to hand, is that not when the really good cook starts to improvise?

And so I repaired to the herb garden:

That would be nasturtium, right there. A beautiful, vividly coloured flower that grows rapidly in many climate conditions, on a creeper endowed with broad, flat leaves. The flower itself is edible, as are the leaves, which possess a very nifty sort of peppery, lemony kind of flavour. It's quite strong on its own, but you can do all kinds of things with it if you're careful to balance it out.

I grabbed a half-dozen leaves or so. Then I pulled some lemons off the tree, and went back inside. First, I threw some basmati rice in the cooker, with a little turmeric for colour and flavour. Next, I chopped up an avocado, a few leftover roma and cherry tomatoes, a little chili, and a nice spring onion. That lot got mixed together with a bit of balsamic vinegar and just a dash of sesame oil, and set aside.

The fish itself, already nicely cleaned by John, I stuffed with a mix of shredded nasturtium and spring onion, and a layer of lemon slices. Then I lay some nasturtium leaves on a piece of aluminium foil, and put lemon slices on that. I salted the fish nicely, and lay it atop the lemon slices. More lemon slices on top of the fish, and more nasturtium leaves over the top. Wrap the foil around nice and tight, pop the fish in the oven to bake at about 170 for... umm... long enough, and the result?

Well, I peeled back the foil and the fish smelled fantastic. The nasturtium leaves had formed a tight wrap, holding the lemon slices next to the fish itself, helping to steam the whole thing. The pepper flavour of the nasturtiums combined beautifully with the salt, the lemon and the spring onions to provide a really fine lift for the tender, flaky fish itself. Placed on a bed of yellow rice, topped with a generous helping of the improvised avocado salsa... and yes, I had just enough leftover Dalrymple chardonnay to wash it all down.

Life's good. Grow nasturtiums: they're cool.


  1. I love that peppery leaf in a salad, unfortunately winter here seemed to be a bit dry for them and I didn't get many, but I'll be remembering that the next time I have a bit of fish.

    I use rocket leaves in the hollandaise I make for salmon, perhaps I should try nasturtiums.

  2. That's ingenious. I certainly wouldn't be casting aspersions on your nasturtiums.

  3. oo good one- I dont have any nasturtiums yet- maybe when I get a little better at gardening. Great idea though.

  4. Nasturtiums might be a bit strong for hollandaise. A healthy nasturtium is a good deal more peppery and lemonish than even the most swaggeringly bold rocket. But like most herbal flavours, it mellows with a bit of cooking, so it was pretty damned fine in the fish.

    And G-Gal? The real beauty of nasturtiums is that you just sorta stick 'em in the ground. Then they grow. That's about all there is to it. You don't have to be good at gardening. You just have to have a patch of non-toxic soil that gets plenty of light, and occasional water.