I could go on all day about the best way to peel a chestnut. The reality is we buy excellent pre-peeled nuts from Victoria, saving a lot of time and burnt fingers. If you cannot find them, use a peeling method you are familiar with. When it comes to slicing fennel, I think a mandolin is the best tool for the job. They are cheap but dangerous, so be careful. Adding Pernod to the acidulated water replaces any anise flavour lost through soaking. You'll need to begin this recipe a day ahead. - Mark Best
- 1 tsp each of coriander seeds and white peppercorns
- 100 gm white sugar
- 100 gm sea salt flakes or Murray River pink salt
- 3 baby fennel bulbs, with fronds
- Rind of 1 lemon removed with a Microplane
- 1 small side ocean trout (about 1kg), belly fat trimmed, pin-boned
- Juice of 1 lemon, plus extra to serve
- 50 ml Pernod or anise-flavoured liqueur
- To serve: extra-virgin olive oil
- 50 gm unsalted butter
- 250 gm peeled chestnuts
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 thyme sprig
- 1 tsp aged sherry vinegar
- 300 ml chicken stock
- 1Dry-roast spices until they pop (1-2 minutes), then transfer to a bowl with sugar, salt, 1 cup (loosely packed) fennel fronds and lemon rind. Mix well and set aside.
- 2Place trout in a non-reactive tray, then rub with sugar mixture, covering both sides evenly. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate until lightly cured (12-18 hours). Remove fish from curing mixture, wipe excess away with a cloth, then wrap trout in plastic wrap and refrigerate until required. Trout will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 days.
- 3For glazed chestnuts, heat a deep-sided frying pan over low heat. Add butter, then chestnuts, garlic and thyme and sauté until nuts are golden (2-4 minutes). Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, deglaze pan with sherry vinegar. Add stock, bring to a simmer, then cover closely with a round of baking paper that has a small hole in the centre. Cook until nuts are tender and glazed (5-10 minutes). Cool to room temperature, discard thyme and garlic, halve larger nuts, keeping smaller ones whole, set aside.
- 4Trim dark green stalks from fennel (discard), reserve remaining fronds. Combine lemon juice, Pernod, 1 litre chilled water and ice cubes in a bowl. Thinly slice fennel with a mandolin into water and stand until crisp (3-5 minutes), then drain and pat dry with absorbent paper. Before serving, drizzle with oil, season to taste with sea salt, freshly ground white pepper and lemon juice, add nuts and toss gently to combine.
- 5Thinly slice trout across the fillet at a 45-degree angle with a sharp, long, thin knife, starting at the head and working toward the tail. Divide fennel, chestnuts and sliced trout among plates and serve immediately, scattered with reserved fennel fronds and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.
Use the best-quality ocean trout you can find. Mark Best prefers to use Petuna.Drink Suggestion: Austrian riesling for its steely purity, minerality and length on the palate due to its great texture. Drink suggestion by Max Allen