Delicate flakes of smoked trout with young spinach smothered in a creamy, pungent horseradish mayo.
Give me a bowl of crispy roast potatoes and a jar of horseradish sauce and I’d be a happy man. As a kid sunday lunch meant one thing to me… horseradish sauce time! Never mind the fact that it wasn’t beef I’d be eating, it didn’t matter if it was chicken, lamb, or pork for lunch, if there were roast potatoes than I would be looking for the horseradish sauce.
I’m a guy who loves his spicy condiments – horseradish, any type of mustard, even brown sauce. Surprisingly enough though I have a very low tolerance for chillies and don’t like a curry that’s too hot. It’s a different type of spice and taste. One that gets you on the tongue where horseradish gets you in the nose.
Horseradish the traditional accompaniment for roast beef also works really well with smoked fish and shellfish, crustaceans in particular. This shouldn’t really be much of a surprise seen as the Japanese serve a lot of their sushi with wasabi, which is a plant from the same family with a similar flavour and a beautiful green luminous colour.
I felt a little cheated when I learned that I’ve probably never tasted real wasabi. The stuff you get here in Ireland is just horseradish with starch and green food colouring added. The real deal is prohibitively expensive and you only find it in the top Japanese restaurants. The reason been its difficult to grow and the root takes about 2 years to reach up to six inches in length. I’ve been told that its flavour is more subtle than that of horseradish though.
Who ever named horseradish has got a wicked sense of humour because its tapered white root is actually poisonous to horses. In its raw state it looks a little like a parsnip and if you held it up to your nose and gave it a good sniff you’d be surprised because it has absolutely no smell. Its only when you peel and finely grate it that it releases its pungent odour.
Ounce peeled be sure to use it straight away. When it’s exposed to air or heat it quickly loses its flavour, smell, and pungency. It also darkens and becomes bitter. If you want to prepare it ahead of time you can cover it in vinegar once you grate it, this is what they do to make the horseradish sauce you’re probably more familiar with.
In the recipe I used fresh horseradish but it can be difficult to get. If you can’t find any just use the stuff that comes in the jar but you might like to increase the quantity as it doesn’t have the same pungency and strength as the fresh root.
Here the horseradish has been teamed up with zesty lime in a mayonnaise that’s been lightened with creme fraiche and been given a slight onion flavour with the addition of chives. Then flakes of cold smoked rainbow trout have been flaked up and gently folded in.
I always find cold smoked fish better that hot smoked. It has a much more subtle flavour and a more delicate texture because the fish is still basically raw. Smoked fish is always cured before the smoking process begins. This is to draw out moisture, herbs and spices are often added to the cure at this stage to give the fish a bit of flavour too. The fish is then given a long smoke at 30c for 5 or 6 hours. This leaves the flesh of the fish with a nice smoky flavour while maintaining its delicate texture.
My favourite way to eat this cocktail is to spread it on some french bread that’s been rubbed with olive oil and garlic and then lightly grilled.
In a bowl mix together the mayonnaise and creme fraiche.
Add the lime juice and zest before grating your horseradish and adding it to the mix. Taste the mayonnaise at this stage to make sure you like the strength of the horseradish and if its too mild add a little more.
Next season the mayonnaise with black pepper, don’t bother with any salt as smoked fish is naturally salty.
Remove the skin from your smoked trout fillets and flake up the fish into bite size pieces before gently folding it into your mayonnaise.
To assemble the cocktail toss the spinach in olive oil and place a bed of it in the bottom of each glass. Divide the trout mayo in four and spoon it into the glasses.
Serve with some french bread that been rubbed in olive oil, garlic and then lightly grilled.
alternative fish – smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, shrimp, prawns, or crab