A cook on the wild side
As a fishing tourist, you don’t usually have the luxury of the creature comforts you are accustomed to back home. For example, having flown over to NZ recently to harass the resident populations of monster trout, I had no chilly bin <ahem> esky, no cutlery, and no pots and pans. Keeping and cooking fresh fish was going to be a problem. I love eating fresh fish, especially in the satisfaction that I caught it myself, but a couple of hours in a warm car can turn a prized catch into something less than appetizing…
Enter the charity op shop
One solution can be found in that backbone of Australian and kiwi culture, the op shop. For 12 New Zealand dollars, Roo and I got stocked up with a fry pan, saucepan, cutlery, a cooler bag, a freezer block and even a wooden spoon. We used all this stuff for a grand total of two weeks, then donated it back to the charity shop when we left, everyone wins 🙂
In a previous installment of the kiwi adventure i managed to break my duck with a modest 31cm rainbow trout. I like to call this size of fish ‘pan sized’ as it implies it was deliberately caught at this size. Humanely dispatched and placed into my new second-hand cooler bag to stay cold, all that remained was a few extras to give it that Masterchef touch for the table.
The other problem you confront as a tourist is finding garnishes to complement your catch. While not strictly ‘wild’, at least in the true sense of the word, my eyes were drawn to several gorgeous big yellow globes while speeding down the highway. Two or three forgotten lemon trees were growing alongside the road. They had been planted next to a farm house, long abandoned, and made for easy, if not slightly cheeky, pickings. Similarly, urban back yards and road-side fruit stands are a great source of citrus tang.
Fennel, a relative of the Dill plant, is a common weed in south east Australia. It grows along roadsides and in urban settings usually in wetter areas. Across the ditch in NZ, fennel is prolific! It has a fresh and slightly aniseed or licorice flavor that goes beautifully with fish.
If you are flying to your fishing destination, be sure to scavenge some complementary bits and pieces from the in-flight meal. Salt, pepper, sugar or even packaged butter. And there you have all the makings of a gourmet fish dinner on the road. For those playing at home:
Rainbow Trout; Pan-sized
Wild fennel; a couple of handfuls
Roadside Lemon; one wedge
Salt; 1 x single serve
Pepper; 1 x single serve
Butter; 1 x single serve
Step 1: Remove scales, wash off slime and pat dry. Fillet trout with brand new fishing knife after nearly being arrested at the airport for carrying old knife in carry-on luggage (Hint: don’t pack at 4am on the morning of departure). Open salt and pepper packets and rub well into the skin.
Step 2: Melt butter in your crappy second-hand fry pan. Try not to flake off any more of the Teflon coating, it probably isn’t good for you.
Step 3: Finely chop a small handful of wild fennel and add to the melting butter. Keep a couple of larger bits whole and pop them in too.
Step 4: Place the fish in the pan, skin down. Fry until crispy (approx 3 minutes). Flip over and fry the flesh side for another minute until golden brown.
Step 5: Plate up your ‘salt and pepper encrusted crispy skin wild trout with fennel butter sauce’. The larger fennel pieces should be crispy and are delicious, adding a subtle and fresh flavour. Add a generous squeeze of highway lemon and consume with a cold Speights (that’s kiwi for beer).
Free, wild and resourceful, Bear grils meets the bush Tucker man 🙂
Cheers for now and happy travels