Smoked Trout and Fennel Salad with Wasabi Mayo dressing

bannerleftI don’t think that I need to convince anyone in Australia that salad or seafood is a good idea at Christmas. One Christmas Eve I attempted to buy fresh fish from the Pyrmont Fish Markets only to be greeted by a scene of utter chaos. Luckily, everyone was in a fairly jolly mood knowing that there was a lot of fish to be bought, although I sensed the mood could have turned ugly had they run out of seafood (Seinfeld Chocolate Babka episode flashback).

Considering our temperatures can reach 40c in December, a salad is always one of the more welcome items on the table. And this salad pairs a fish that you don’t need to get from the Fish Markets, indeed it’s one you could buy a few weeks ahead of time, with some fresh yet substantial ingredients. Sold? OK the final pitch is the taste: a smoked trout with a scattering of salad leaves, crispy fennel and waxy kipflers and a hint of zing (or a ferocious growl – your choice) with the creamy wasabi mayonnaise.I found that using a Vslicer was something I was at first trepidatious about, hearing about lost finger tops and cuts. So much was my fear that I asked my husband to supervise me. We removed the VSlicer from the holder (held snugly with a safety catch). What I needed to do was slice the fennel thinly so I spread open the multilingual instructions and followed the directions on which attachment to use. I V-sliced the fennel in two thicknesses: the number 1 producing a gorgeously thin slice whereas number 2 gave it a sturdier slice for frying. Not so bad-although I admit that I am still scared of the julienning attachments which look a bit medieval.

If you’ve never removed the flesh from a whole Smoked trout, do not fear, it’s easy. Using a sharp knife, cut deep all the way along the belly of the smoked trout (which should already have an incision) like you were slicing a burger bun in half to fill, and flip the fish open and remove the head, backbone and tail in one.

There may be smaller bones within the fish itself, look out for those, especially smaller ones like the ones along the top fin that people may not notice. The skin will also slide away easily from the meat.

I had shunned salad spinners for years. Not for lack of wanting one but from hearing from friends that the ones with cords wore out after a while. But the Kuhn Rikon one has a turning lever and a more sturdy construction so I came with an open mind. I also think that if you can’t buy organic all of the time, with the amount of chemicals used, it’s always good to wash salad leaves as much as possible. This one dries the salad beautifully and you should lose patience with watching it spinning (I didn’t) you can always press the button down firmly and it will stop spinning. It’s surrprising how much water it does remove from the delicate leaves and you can see this collect at the bottom.

There’s no fancy way to present a salad, on a plate is about it but to give it a special touch, the Laguiole Salad Spoons in a Christmassy red would do the trick. I’d first seen Laguiole cutlery when I dined at Gordon Ramsay’s Royal Hospital Road Restaurant in London. My sister recognised the trademark Bee symbol on her steak knife and we set about looking for them in the stores in London. I hunted down a lovely set at Waitrose but missed my opportunity to buy them and have pined for them ever since.

Smoked Trout and Fennel salad with Wasabi Mayo dressing

• 3-4 Kipfler potatoes peeled

• 2 tablespoons of olive oil

• 2 fennel bulbs with fronds reserved

• 1.5 tablespoons of flour mixed seasoned with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper

• Grapeseed or olive oil for frying

• Baby Spinach leaves

• 1 avocado

• 1 whole smoked trout, deboned and skin removed

For first dressing

• 1/3 cup of Extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice for dressing.

For second dressing

• Wasabi

• 1/3 cup of whole egg mayonnaise (Hellmans, S&W or similar)

1. Boil potatoes for 15 minutes in salted water until done and then drain and slice each potato diagonally into 3-4 pieces. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper and set aside.

2. Cut off fronds from both the fennel and cut it in half. Using a VSlicer slice one fennel bulb using the number 2 thickness (3mm approximately if cutting by hand). Heat the frypan with some of the 1/2 cup of oil and dredge the fennel slices lightly in the seasoned flour and fry until golden and crispy. Drain on a paper towel.

3. Then slice the other fennel very thinly using the Vslicer on the Number 1 thickness.

4.Using the Kuhn Rikon Salad Spinner, take out the green sieve and wash the thinly sliced fennel, baby spinach leaves, and the fennel fronds (that resemble dill). Spin until dry and place in a large bowl along with the potatoes and half of the trout meat and pour over the first dressing.

5. Make second dressing by combining the two using the amount of wasabi that you prefer.

6. Place 1/2 of this salad mix onto a serving plate or bowl and using a Stockholm avocado slicer place 1/2 of the avocado on top of this layer. Then add the rest of the salad and the rest of the avocado and place remaining smoked trout and crispy fennel on top.

7.Drizzle over second wasabi mayonnaise dressing and season with salt and pepper.

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