Flavours of France: Truite aux amandes
Bistro classics: Food writer Mary Cadogan explains the origins of this tasty fish recipe
Springtime, when the river trout season opens in France, is the perfect time to enjoy this classic dish. It’s not only good for you, packed with heart-healthy and cholesterol-busting omega-3 fatty acids and lean proteins, but it also perfectly reflects the lighter eating that is so welcome after a winter of comfort food. Trout are a close relation to salmon with many of the same characteristics. River trout are freshwater fish regularly caught in the sparklingly clean, fast-flowing rivers that weave their way through the whole of France.
Rainbow trout is another beast entirely. Imported originally from California, these fish readily adapt to any waters and are extensively farmed on a global scale. Rainbow trout has a different flavour to river trout, but is more readily available on fish counters. Organic rainbow trout is a good choice as they have more space to grow and develop to reduce the environmental impact, the feed is sustainably sourced and the fish welfare higher.
Truite aux amandes, or truite amandine as it’s also called, has always divided opinion in the food world. Many chefs dismiss it as an abomination, and Elizabeth David declared in her book French Provincial Cooking that “it is not cooking, it is packaging”. It became popular in 1980s Britain when we discovered Mediterranean cooking and, along with other bistro classics such as coq au vin and bœuf bourguignon, I’d like to think it’s due a revival.
It has never lost its popularity is France, especially in small family-run bistros, and riverside restaurants will normally feature trout in some form on their menus. For the home cook, it’s a simple dish to prepare as a midweek treat or a romantic dîner à deux. Using ready-prepared fillets, it can be on the table in under 20 minutes.
RECIPE: Truite aux amandes
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In the classic version of this dish, the fish is fried in a pan, but I prefer to grill it and make the sauce separately. I find grilling fish skin-side up means there is less risk of overcooking it and the flesh stays very moist. Try this method with other fish such as bass or bream.
? 50g blanched almonds
? 1 lemon
? 50g butter
? 1 tbsp olive oil
? 4 trout fillets
? good handful of parsley, chopped
1 Cut the almonds into slivers. Finely grate the zest of half the lemon and squeeze the juice into a bowl.
2 Melt the butter in a small pan. Line a grill pan with foil. Brush the fish on both sides with butter and season with salt and pepper. Set the fish on the foil skin side up and grill for 3-4 mins, until the skin is nicely browned and the flesh tender.
3 Meanwhile reheat the butter with the oil, add the almonds and fry gently until lightly toasted. Add the lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper, and heat through.
4 Set two trout fillets on each dinner plate and spoon over the buttery almonds. Scatter with parsley and serve with steamed new potatoes and agreen salad.