Perhaps it is because I was born in a flat country that I love the wild sea and mountains. I liked my years in Switzerland and I am fond of the Alps but I really am a big fan of the Pyrenees in the south of France and north of Spain.
I go there relatively often, having an old aunt living in a tiny village at the foot of the mountains, and we have crossed the region from coast to coast, taking in the French Catalan area from Collioure, the Béarn and the Basque regions to Biarritz.
So when I found a stall selling trout from the Pyrenees – vacuum sealed – it did not take long to decide to buy some for the freezer.
This was not wild trout, it was farmed trout which is still rather good and helps to create some employment in an otherwise not very booming region. The problem with open areas full of nature is that it is attractive to people from elsewhere but hard making a living for the locals.
Over the centuries, the locals were farmers, hunters and forest workers. There were mines and some textile industries and, somehow, a booming production of combs and buttons before plastic was invented. Now there remain some industrial tissue firms, working for high tech aerospace and environmental services groups, minerals extraction, water energy generation, farmers, vintners, hunters, civil servants and people working in tourism.
The traditional recipes were based on the local ingredients – including trout from the rivers and dried fish from the sea – cooked in sauces with onion, tomato and herbs, and finished with a sort of dressing made from almonds.
It is comparable to the Catalan cooking south of the border.
The people used lard from home-slaughtered domesticated pigs, and still have a peculiar taste for slightly rancid lard. They sought to find sustenance in heavy meals to compensate for the calories needed for work and to resist the cold nights. I appreciate their blood sausages and snail dishes.
Recipes for trout see the fish gutted and washed, sprinkled with flour, or flour and eggs, or flour and milk, and then fried in butter. To this a tomato-based sauce could be added. Some variations have ham or lard in the frying pan as well and in modern times there are still recipes combining trout with smoked ham, pancetta or bacon.
I wanted to come close to the tradition but keep it relatively light. So no bacon. No smoked ham either because, while I like the taste, it hides that of the fish and only adds more proteins, calories and salt to the meal.
I grilled the trout wrapped in foil with some lemon and then added a sauce of tomatoes, onion, some garlic and almond flakes.
- Two trout
- One lemon
- Four shallots
- Two gloves of garlic
- Half a tin of chopped tomatoes
- 50 grammes of almond flakes
- Olive oil
- Wash, gut and clean the trout. You can leave the head and tail on, but it is not obligatory.
- Wash and slice the lemon.
- Put each trout on some aluminium foil, cover with slices of lemon and some pepper, wrap it closed
- Heat an oven or grill.
- Put the fish in the foil on the grill or in the oven, cook for 20 minutes turning several times.
- Meanwhile put olive oil in a skillet.
- Chop the shallots and add to the skillet and stir
- Peel and crush the garlic, add to the pan and stir.
- Taste and add pepper, if needed also salt.
- Sprinkle the almond flakes in the pan and stir.
- Take the fish from the foil, put on a plate, add the sauce. You can accompany this with rice, pasta or potatoes (boiled or baked).