This article first appeared in Times Live and is entitled “A Good Catch: how to cook sustainable rainbow trout from Montagu”. Here I’ve adapted my original post slightly in order to make it blog-relevant.
Although unavoidably unsustainable, salmon is still recurring on restaurant plates countrywide. The environmental impact both from the farming of salmon as well as the carbon footprint present in their transportation means that soon this popular fish will become all but unaffordable. Fortunately there is an alternative farmed right here in South Africa that offers the same nutritional value and great flavour of salmon but without the impact on the earth and one’s wallet. Green-listed by the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI), farmed trout is fast becoming a viable replacement for both wild-caught and farmed Norwegian salmon.
Since 2015, Two Dam Sustainable has been farming rainbow trout in a manner that is ethical, sustainable and environmentally friendly. From their location in the Montagu valley, husband and wife team Marco and Vivian Harms sell their artisanal fresh, cured and smoked trout products to restaurants in the surrounding areas as well as delivering to Cape Town bi-monthly. Offering customers the option of ordering over email or purchasing products through various resellers, Two Dam Sustainable is making affordable, delicious fish readily and easily available to home cooks. From their buttery cold-smoked trout gravlax that is cured in salt, sugar, dill, lemon zest and black pepper, hot oak-smoked trout fillets with mustard seeds and their “traviar” (salt-cured trout roe), every item produced by Two Dam is the product of a stringent farming process – one that happens to be entirely carbon-free. Striving for an uncompromised level of sustainability – both for farming and daily life – Two Dam now runs almost entirely off renewable energy and is 100% off-grid and carbon neutral.
Through the use of a Recirculating Aquaculture System – the only one of its kind in South Africa – Two Dam ensures a low electricity use and only uses around 5% of its total volume of water per day. Bio-filters encourage the growth of healthy bacteria that create a clean environment for the fish, while the nutrient-rich water from the tanks is collected in settlement dams and used as fertilizer for the farm’s pecan and fruit trees. All packaging used for Two Dam’s trout products is made from recycled plastic and can be further recycled once used.
Two Dam Sustainable also offers eco-friendly and off-grid accommodation on their farm.
Fresh whole trout is best cooked as simply as possible and grilling it in a hot oven is the easiest way to do this. Stuffed with lemon and dill and served with a creamy clam and caper sauce with seared asparagus and steamed new potatoes makes for an elegant dinner party option.
Grilled Trout with a caper & clam sauce
Prep time: 15 mins /Cook time: 25 mins /Serves: 4
You will need:
- 1kg whole trout, cleaned
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- 20g fresh dill
- Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
For the sauce:
- 1 brown onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 30ml baby capers
- 125ml dry white wine
- 250ml fresh cream
- 500g fresh white clams or small mussels, scrubbed
- 5-6 sprigs of dill, finely chopped
- Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
- 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Use kitchen towel to pat the fish dry. Season inside the belly cavity with salt and pepper and pack in the dill and as many lemon slices that will fit. Rub butter over the skin of the trout and place the fish on a baking sheet lined with foil. Grill the trout for 20-25 minutes or until the flesh is no longer translucent – it’s always better to underdo than overdo trout.
While the trout is cooking, make the clam sauce. In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onions in a little butter until they are soft. Add in the garlic and capers and leave to cook for a minute or so before deglazing the saucepan with white wine. Pour in the cream, season to taste and leave the sauce to reduce over low heat. Once the sauce is thickened, add in the clams, closing the lid of the saucepan to allow for steaming. Once all the clams are open, scatter over the fresh dill and add a squeeze of lemon.
To serve, remove the dill and lemon slices from the cavity of the trout and arrange the fish on a large serving dish. Spoon over the clam sauce and serve immediately with a side of seared asparagus and steamed new potatoes.
Wine suggestion: Lords Sauvignon Blanc 2019 – lush grassy notes and a finely balanced acidity equalize with the rich unctuousness of the fish and cream-based sauce.