Slow fishing

I'm the world's slowest eater. I like to take small bites, chew lots, and chat. It's excruciating to watch, I'm sure. The one exception is when Lily's crying. There's a mix of urgency and indigestion that forces me to either eat quickly, or not at all.

Many would argue that eating slowly is the healthier way to do it. Your brain has more time to process things, you tend not to overeat (I may have to debate that point) and you really get the chance to enjoy your food.

I have recently learned about Slow Food, and subsequently, Slow Fishing. It's one of the many initiatives that's teaching the world to step back, slow down, and take a look at how we get the food to our plate. Slow Food breaks the concept down into good, clean, and fair. The good food means tasty, seasonal, local. Clean refers to respecting the environment, our health, and the product. And being fair applies to both pricing for the consumer, and pay/conditions for the workers.

Hooked is one of many fish mongers in Kensington market, but the only one (that I'm aware of) that has partnered with Slow Fish, Oceanwise, and other sustainable-fishing focussed organizations.

I popped in after work last week to talk about fish options for my Farmhouse Retreat, and I walked away with a beautiful, super-fresh rainbow trout caught just a day earlier from a local, fair, and clean source.

My go-to method of cooking fish is always steamed, chinese-style. But for the Farmhouse Retreat, I wanted a less ethnic flavour. I've always been skeptical of salt-baked fish but have heard over and over that although it might be a bit wasteful, and it's not a magical flavour that you can't get any other way, it is incredibly forgiving. This sounded perfect for my retreat, where I will likely be overwhelmed with things to do since I tend to be overambitious with my plans whenever food in involved.

I didn't do anything fancy to the salt. Just added 1/2 cup of water to 1kg of sea salt, which was just barely enough to cover my 2lb fish.

I stuffed the trout with a bunch of thyme and slices of lemons (they pop one in the bag for you at Hooked! How nice.) The trout was gutted and scaled, but I left everything else intact: skin head, fins.

It really is as simple as laying some of the salt on a sheet pan, placing the fish on top, and then covering the fish.

Into a 350F degree oven. 25 mins later (my trout was about 2 lbs) I took it out of the oven and I wasn't ready to deal with it for another 15 minutes because I forgot that Brussels sprouts always take longer than you think.

Removing the salt is easier than I thought. I was a little too eager and did the good ol' Larry Trick (Larry is the guy in a safety video we watch at work every year about "Winter Driving" and instead of scraping his entire windshield of his car, he only scrapes a tiny hole and ends up in an accident. Silly Larry.) so I exposed a small section of the fish, peeled back the skin, stole a piece, decided it was delicious and then went back to taking the salt off the other parts. Mistake. the exposed part of the trout was covered in a dusting of salt. So just like Larry, I learned from my mistake and resisted the temptation to remove the skin before all of the salt was pushed away.

I really do feel bad about the wasted salt. I even googled to see if someone had devised a plan for reusing the salt in some way, but no forum exists for "uses for leftover salt crust".

I've decided that if you don't have the attentiveness to bake a piece of fish perfectly, removing it from the oven at the right time, and serving immediately, then this is worth the salty waste. Think of it as a biodegradable, disposable cooking vessel.

I reused the lemon wedges to squeeze on top. No additional sauce added. I served the fish with a simple side of bacon sauteed Brussels sprouts.

And then I ate it really slowly. Mmm.

Salt Crusted Rainbow Trout

1 2lb rainbow trout
1kg salt
1/2 cup water
1 lemon, sliced
1 bunch thyme

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, mix the salt with the water and mix. It should look like slushy snow.

Spread a thin layer, about 1cm thick on the bottom of a sheet pan, just bigger than the size of the fish. Set aside.

Wash the fish and pat dry. Fill the cavity with the slices of lemon and the thyme. Place on the salted sheet pan.

Using the rest of the salt, completely cover the fish.

Bake in the oven for 25 mins. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before completely removing the salt crust. Squeeze the baked lemon wedges over the fish and serve the fish in large chunks, or scoop the entire fish onto a platter and serve family style.