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Rooibos- smoked trout with minted peas & truffle mayonnaise

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Most people think of rooibos strictly as a tisane – as a naturally caffeine-free alternative to black tea – but I love exploring new ways of cooking with this miraculous herb. Smoking with rooibos yields a fascinating result, as the herb’s sweet nuttiness still comes through in the taste of whatever you choose to smoke, whether it’s fish, poultry or pork. The added smokiness also lends the trout in this summery dish an unmistakable umami flavour, which gives it a “fuller” taste. And the addition of truffle-infused mayonnaise is the perfect, creamy accompaniment to this undeniably hearty meal – and always reminds me of my first truffle hunt in Italy.

JAN | Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen | Rooibos- smoked trout with minted peas & truffle mayonnaise
Photograph by Daniela Zondagh

Rooibos is a type of fynbos that grows only in a very small part of South Africa’s Western Cape province, along the slopes of the Cederberg mountains – flourishing in the region’s Mediterranean climate and deep, acidic soil. Harvesting occurs annually for a period of about 4 – 7 years, after which the land is given time to rest to allow nutrients to return to the earth, making rooibos a highly sustainable ingredient.

The plant takes a year to mature and is usually harvested by hand using sickles – an ancient practice – between January and March. After cutting, the rooibos is fermented, after which it is spread out across a tea court in the blistering summer sun to dry. Until now, the needles resemble the deep green colour of pine needles, but when sun-dried, turn their characteristic red.

INGREDIENTS

For the Rooibos-smoked Trout

125 ml rooibos tea leaves

125 ml muscovado brown sugar

125 ml white rice

olive oil

2 x 220 g rainbow trout fillets

salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Minted Peas

400 ml frozen peas

30 ml butter

10 mint leaves, roughly chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Truffle Mayonaise

125 ml creamy mayonnaise

125 ml crème fraîche

truffle oil to taste

 To serve

micro herbs

fresh limes

METHOD

For the Rooibos-smoked Trout

Double-line a wok with tinfoil. Mix the tea leaves, sugar and rice in the wok. Place a rack over the smoking ingredients (lightly oil the rack to keep your fish from sticking to it).

Rub olive oil on the fish fillets and season with salt and pepper. Place the fish on top of the rack.

Turn the heat to high until you can see smoke rising, then turn the heat down to medium. Cover tightly with tinfoil.

Smoke for 6 minutes and remove the fish from the wok.

For the Minted Peas

In a saucepan, bring enough water to completely cover the peas to a boil. Add the peas and let them simmer until just soft, taking care not to overcook them.

Drain and add the butter and mint leaves. Season with salt and pepper.

For the Truffle Mayonaise

Mix the mayonnaise and crème fraîche in a bowl. Add the truffle oil drop by drop until you can taste the truffle flavour.

To serve

Spoon the peas into a bowl. Break the fish up into large pieces and arrange them on top of the bed of peas. Spoon some truffle mayonnaise into the bowl and serve the rest on the side.

Sprinkle the micro herbs on top and serve with fresh lime.

 

TIP: If you don’t have a wok you can use disposable foil baking dishes. Place two on top of each other and follow the same instructions.

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