One of the satisfying aspects of my jobs is being a private chef – I love the freedom clients afford you and also the total appreciation of private clients for what you do and how you do it. During the process of being a private chef for a client, you bring them into a whole new world of how things work, what can and cannot be done and they as a result get a new understanding behind the intricate process of deciding what will work and what will be a disaster on the plate. I had a private lunch lined up for 28 July and it is a 4-course lunch with wine pairing for 10 guests and the client wanted two courses with a white wine and two with a red wine. The last two weeks it was the one meeting between the client and myself and on three of the courses we agreed 100%, but the fish course remained a headache for me. I knew I wanted to use trout as we live about 150km from the most amazing trout farms in Dullstroom and Belfast, client wanted something from the sea (which is more than 700km away) and we just couldn’t reach consensus. Until Conor Bofin of One Man’s Meat blog’s published his Fennel and Garlic Purèe recipe earlier this week and well the creative juices started to flow…
My vegetable garden is bursting with new life at the moment, there are peas with no pods yet, but the most amazing sweet shoots, young tender leaf baby spinach and the young leaves of Chinese Kale, fresh garlic from the ground and crunchy watercress, all waiting to be the salad that will go with this fennel purèe and trout. So during the week I called my client and explained the dish to her, eventually cooking it for her to convince her and yes we had a total winner this afternoon during the lunch. In due time I’ll publish some of the other recipes mentioned in this menu, but for this post I am concentrating on the fish course and here is the full menu for the lunch:
First Course: Starter
Grilled Duck liver basted in a hoisin sauce with grilled Quails Breast with Aubergine Caviar and Orange Vinaigrette accompanied by 2010 Slanghoek Crème de Chenin.
Second Course: Fish
Recipe given here and illustrated. Dullstroom Trout with Fennel Purèe, Garden Salad with Watercress Oil accompanied by 2009 Plaisir de Merle Sauvignon Blanc.
Third Course: Meat
Five Spice Rubbed Pork Belly with Pear & Vanilla Purèe, Grilled Apples & Tender Stem Broccoli & Cider Sauce accompanied by 2007 Indalo Cabernet Sauvignon.
Fourth Course: Dessert
Soft Prune Tart Tatin with liquorice Ice Cream & Dark Berry Compote accompanied by 2009 Beyerskloof Lagare.
Summer on a Plate:
However the recipe I want to share with you and the dish that really got everybody talking was the Fish Course. I made some changes to Conor’s Fennel Purèe, but the essence remains. The recipe is enough to serve 10-12 people:
Fennel Purèe Ingredients:
- 4 Large Fennel Bulbs, chopped
- 2 Medium Potatoes, chopped into medium dice (you need it to give stability)
- 1-2 Carlic Cloves
- 100ml Cream
- 1.5 L Light Vegetable Stock
- 50g Butter (or more)
- White Pepper
For the Watercress Oil:
- 100g Watercress
- 100ml Olive Oil
- White Pepper
- 10ml Smooth Dijon
- 1 Garlic Clove
- Salt to taste
- White Pepper to taste
For the Salad:
- I have picked the following leaves from my garden:
- Baby Spinach
- Baby Chinese Kale
- Young Pea Shoots
- Young Fennel Shoots
- 6 Baby Spring Onions
- 6 Ripe Avocados
- 6 Limes
For the Trout:
- 10-12 Trout Fillets, cut into neat squares
- Little Olive Oil
- Course Salt
Fennel Purèe: Bring the vegetable stock with half the cream to a boil. Once boiling add the potatoes and boil until they become soft, then add the fennel and garlic and boil until they are soft. Remove from the liquid, but keep it as you’ll poached your fish in it. Place the boiled fennel, garlic and potatoes into a blender with seasoning, other half of the cream and butter and blend until smooth. Press through a sieve to get a smooth purèe and add more butter at this stages to add to the silky look of the purèe. Set aside and keep warm.
Watercress Oil: Add all the ingredients in a blender and blend until well mixed and the watercress is broken and the oil starts to colour green. Drain through a fine sieve and place the oil in a dripping bottle.
Greens for the Salad: Wash them well and keep refresh in cold water. Minutes before serving dress lightly with a little olive oil only.
Trout: Trim your trout, remove any bones and poach for three to four minutes, depending on thickness, in the cooking fluid of the fennel. Remove and carefully peel the skin off. Once skin is removed return the trout to the warm poaching liquid and set aside to rest in the liquid. Warm the olive oil in a pan, salt the skins well and crisp them up in the hot pan.
- Spoon and draw a spoonful of the fennel purèe from one corner of the plate to the other.
- Place the scooped out avo opposite the purèe.
- Add the salad leaves on one side of the purèe and the two lime slices on the other side.
- Place your trout between the purèe and the avo.
- Drizzle with the watercress oil.
- Wedge the crispy skin into the trout and serve.