I can't remember a Christmas where I haven't cured a side of ocean trout or salmon, using it in various ways over the main days of entertaining. Sometimes it's down a traditional line, served with creme fraiche, shallots, caperberries and chopped egg on rye toast or lavash. But I also love it pushed in different directions. This Asian version is brilliant for setting the mood for a great lunch to come.
1.2–1.5kg side of ocean trout (or salmon), skin on, trimmed and pin-boned
peel from 2 mandarins (or oranges)
1½ tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, lightly toasted
2 tsp white peppercorns, finely crushed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp sesame oil
24 square wonton wrappers, cut in half into triangles
oil for shallow-frying
For the cure
200g rock salt
120g castor sugar
10g (about 2 tbsp) coriander seeds, lightly ground
10g (about 2 tbsp) Sichuan peppercorns, lightly ground
5g (about 1 heaped tsp) white peppercorns, lightly ground
juice and zest of 2 lemons
juice and zest of 2 limes
For the mayonnaise
250g thick mayonnaise (like Kewpie)
50g sesame seeds, toasted and ground
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
small yellow celery leaves
finely sliced spring onion
trout or salmon roe
1. Combine the cure ingredients in a bowl until it's an even slurry.
2. Lay two long overlapping lengths of cling wrap on a tray or dish that will fit the trout lying flat. Press them together along the seam, then pour in half the cure, spreading it out along the length of the tray. Lay the trout on the cure, skin-side down, then pour the remaining cure over the top. Seal the parcel tightly with the overlapping cling wrap, ensuring the trout is evenly covered. Refrigerate for 24 hours, opening the parcel and turning the trout after 12 hours, then resealing.
3. Dehydrate the mandarin peel on a tray in the oven at 100C (80C fan-forced) for about 3 hours until brittle but still brightly coloured, not brown. Blitz in a spice grinder until fine, add the Sichuan pepper and white pepper and blitz again.
4. Once cured, remove the trout from the slurry (it will have firmed up and shed lots of water) and wipe clean with a damp cloth. Combine the olive and sesame oils and brush over the trout, then press on the mandarin dust. Wrap tightly in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before slicing (the trout will keep for about 10 days like this).
5. Combine the sesame mayonnaise ingredients well and refrigerate until needed. (Transferring it to a piping bag makes serving easier and more elegant, but it's not essential.)
6. Fry the wonton wrappers in about 4cm of oil at 180C for 2 minutes on each side, then drain on kitchen paper.
7. Slice the trout on an angle, then lay half a slice on a wonton triangle. Top with a dollop of mayonnaise, a celery leaf, some shallot and a couple of pearls of roe. Serve immediately with lime wedges. (If you let this sit for long, the wonton wrappers will soften.)
Tip: The base recipe for the cure is something you can adapt to your needs. Omit the Sichuan peppercorns and coriander seeds for a more classic result. Once the fish is cured, just brush it with dijon mustard and coat with chopped dill before wrapping and refrigerating.