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A super-simple whole baked fish with hot horseradish, zesty lemon and herbs - parsley, dill and thyme all work well
Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Lay the trout over a lightly oiled baking tray and stuff the fish cavity with slices of lemon and herbs. Season generously all over and drizzle with the remaining oil.
Bake in the oven for 20 mins until the fish is cooked through – the eyes will have turned white and the flesh will be soft to touch. The trout can be served as they are with your favourite seasonal vegetables, but for an added extra touch, peel away the top layer of skin and grate over fresh horseradish before serving.
You want to make sure the fish is as fresh as possible when buying it. Here’s what to check for when buying fish:
If you’re lucky enough to have a good fishmonger near you, then that will be your best bet. There are also more and more specialist fish suppliers online now, some of which ship the fish on the same day it’s caught. Don’t rule out frozen fish – it can often be really good quality as it may well have been frozen just hours after it was caught.
Most trout are small freshwater fish – these include the widely available rainbow trout and brown trout. You’d generally serve one whole fish per person, or 1-2 whole fillets. The fillets are quite thin, so cook quickly. Sea trout is much larger and meatier and are mostly sold as ready prepared portioned fillets (like salmon). They can be used in place of salmon in most dishes. To use them in place of smaller trout you may need to increase the cooking time as they are thicker.
This recipe uses the baking method for cooking trout as it produces a slightly crisp skin and moist flesh, and it’s very simple to do. You can also grill, barbecue or pan-fry the whole trout.
To grill trout, heat the grill to medium-high, place the fish on a piece of lightly oiled foil inside a grill pan then grill for about 7-8 minutes on each side or until cooked through to the thickest part. Grilling is probably the best method for crisping the skin.
To barbecue, either place them in fish racks/grill baskets, or wrap the fish in a sheet of lightly oiled foil to make a parcel. Barbecue for about 15-20 minutes (depending on the heat of the coals), turning once or twice, or until the flesh is opaque and cooked through at the thickest part.
To pan fry whole trout, heat some olive oil or rapeseed oil and about a tablespoon of butter in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the prepared trout and fry for about 7 minutes on each side, or until the skin is browned and the fish cooked right through.
It takes 20 minutes for two whole rainbow trout to be baked in an oven, pre-heated to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. They’ll take about 15 minutes under the grill or if pan-fried, and about 20 minutes on the barbecue. These times can vary depending on the exact size of your fish so check that the fish is cooked right down to the bone at the thickest part.
When the trout is cooked the eyes will have turned white and the flesh will be opaque, soft and flake apart easily. It will also pull away easily from the bones. It’s important to check it at the thickest part where it meets the bone. Use a small, sharp knife to cut into it.
We’ve left the skin on, but if you prefer you can remove it before cooking. To do so, hold the trout firmly by the tail and scrape firmly with a very sharp knife to the gills several times on both sides. Another way to do it is to snap the head of the fish back towards the body (up and away from the belly) and then pull the head and skin back towards the tail - you should find the skin will peel off this way without the need for a knife. You can also easily remove the skin once the fish is cooked - just rub it gently with a knife and it should come away from the flesh.
Whole trout will come away from the bones easily once cooked. Just cut down the back bone, then carefully slide the top fillet off the fish. This will expose the skeleton so you can then lift up the tail and carefully pull the skeleton away from the flesh in the direction of the head. The bottom fillet will then be mainly bone-free.
Raw trout fillets sometimes require ‘pin boning’ which just means removing any obvious large bones from the fillet. To do this, rub your finger down the middle of each fillet towards the tail end, feeling for any bones and pulling them out with clean tweezers.
Classic sides for trout include boiled potatoes, steamed vegetables and different sauces such as mustard sauce or lemon butter sauce, like in our buttery trout with capers. Trout and flaked almonds is a classic combination – try our modern take on this with trout with almonds & red peppers– and beetroot and horseradish is another favourite pairing. We’ve got lots of recipe ideas below.
Trout fillets are quick and easy to cook. You can follow the methods for whole trout but reduce the cooking time by roughly half. They’ll need about 8-10 minutes in the oven or under the grill. Pan-frying is even speedier and they’ll be ready after about 5-7 minutes, turning them over just for the last minute of cooking. They also work well in a parcel of baking parchment and/or foil with a drizzle of oil, squeeze of lemon juice and some fresh herbs.