Striped Trumpeter, Young Leek, Salt Berries, Pork Fat

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    4

Appears in

Origin

By Ben Shewry

Published 2012

  • About

Striped trumpeter is not a fish I regularly have on the menu. We get it in occasionally when in season and only serve a small amount. It is mostly found in Tasmania, although they do also exist throughout parts of southern Australia. It is highly prized among recreational fishermen, and rightly so for the striped trumpeter is one of the best-eating fin fish in Australia. It has a very firm, slightly oily flesh and mild clean taste. Striped trumpeter is best eaten raw or at the most very lightly cooked.

Although most of the striped trumpeter I have prepared have been around the 4 kg (9 lb) mark, they can grow up to 25 kg (56 lb 4 oz) and live up to 30 years. Because it is a slow-maturing fish, we should exercise much caution in the amount we catch and consume. There are strict limits for this fish in both size and catch numbers and a closed season in Tasmania, for both recreational and commercial fishermen, which runs from the beginning of September until the end of October.

We get our striped trumpeter from a single day-boat fisherman in Tasmania and the quality is better than anything I’ve ever seen in my eighteen years of preparing and cooking fish. As a cook I’m aware of how hard it is sometimes to improve on nature. When an ingredient is as good as the striped trumpeter, it’s best to keep the preparation and cooking very simple and let the quality of the core ingredient shine through. It takes more discipline to serve something very simply than it does to serve something complex. It’s like cooking without clothes on — it’s as if the dish and the chef are naked — the cook has nothing to fall back on other than the quality of the products on the plate; any imperfection in his preparation or ingredients and he will be exposed. Minimal technique and little or no sauce are required — nothing to hide the flaws or imperfections that might otherwise be disguised by more traditional tricks.

I pair the trumpeter simply with salt berries, which are the flowering buds of grey or winter saltbush. Indigenous Australians have eaten saltbush for thousands of years. In Victoria the berries are available to harvest in the wild from late August until the end of October. They have a slightly waxy texture and a salty, mineral flavour. To do them proper justice, it’s best to pick them on the day and serve them raw.

Ingredients

  • 1 very fresh young leek, washed
  • 120 g ( oz) piece striped trumpeter fillet, skin and bloodline removed
  • 12 very thin slices salt-cured pork back fat or free-range lardo
  • 20 ml (¾ fl oz) grape seed oil
  • 15 ml (½ fl oz) lemon juice
  • table salt, to taste
  • 20 saltbush leaves
  • 36 salt berries, picked and cleaned
  • 30 ml (1 fl oz) white soy

Method

Remove the tough outer layers of the leek. Cut the white part into 18 rounds, 5 mm (¼ inch) thick. (Reserve the green part of the leek to make a stock.)

Using a sashimi knife, slice the trumpeter into 12 nice pieces. Lay 3 pieces on each plate.

Place a slice of pork fat over the top of the fish and, using a kitchen blowtorch, very lightly warm the pork fat so it melts and glazes the fish.

Slice 6 of the leek rounds in half and dress the slices with a few drops of grape seed oil and lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Divide the leek halves and rounds among the plates, placing them on and around the fish.

Scatter the saltbush leaves and salt berries around the plates and dress with a few drops of soy, the remaining oil and lemon juice. The saltiness of the pork fat and soy will be enough to season the fish without adding any more salt.