Fishing is a massive part of my life, especially fly fishing, trout mostly although the occasional salmon has passed through. Other fish crop up but the amount of trout that end up in my kitchen is ridiculous. On the whole I have never considered the trout a great eating fish, don’t get me wrong a small brownie fresh from the stream and straight in the pan is one of the sweetest breakfasts you could ask for, I mean your bog standard, run-of-the-mill rainbow trout.
Many of the places I go fly fishing stock rainbow trout, the fishery rules stipulate that what you catch you must kill and you have a limit (2-3 fish per person). The fish are often a good size, much bigger than the feeble offerings you may see in a supermarket or your local fishmongers. The big difference is when the fish reach my kitchen they are a couple of hours out of the water and in prime eating condition.
After years of baking and frying trout, the novelty has worn off and I needed a new way to prepare these fish, my father used to smoke his trout all the time and they were extremely tasty. So that was that, a few days before the next fishing trip I went and bought a brand new Abu Garcia Smoker, a couple of bags of oak sawdust and a small bottle of methelated spirits.
After a grand day of thrashing the water down at chalk springs in Arundel, my brother and I returned home victorious, the ever proud hunters delivering fine fish to our respective ladies. We all sat in the garden back up in London and had a few drinks while the fish were gutted and trimmed, by me of course (I always get the rubbish jobs!).
The concept of the smoker is a wonderful thing, we’re not talking proper smoked salmon smoking, but a simple 15 minute hot smoking which renders the fish full of flavour and gives it a wonderful texture.
Once the fish is ready top and tail it, all that is required is to put a thin layer of sawdust on the bottom of the smoking tin and add a few dried herbs, in this case a couple of crushed, dried bay leaves and some dried garlic granules. Then put the grill with the fish on over the sawdust place on the lid and light the meth’s burner underneath. Smoking time is about 15 minutes, whether its meat or fish, you just wait for the burner to go out.
The smell of the smoke is so, so good. Infused with the bay and garlic and the slowly cooking fish, it was one of those smells that took me right back to when my father used to do his trout. The taste of the fish is something quite special too both the fish were stripped to bones within minutes. Smoking allows for serious experimentation from meat to vegetables and even fruit. You can also play around with flavours and add different herbs and spices onto the sawdust tray. Different types of wood also make for interesting finfusions, hickory, oak, apple, birch or beech are all superb (they must be seasoned non-resinous woods). For such a great flavour and simple cooking smoking is a great addition to any al fresco frolics, I can tell you something for free; I know exactly where my future trout are going before they end up on my plate.
Most smokers are available from fishing, shooting or camping shops and the internet. I purchased mine from Farlows, they cost around £30-£40 and your sawdust about £2.99.