The one that got away

by Sam Bilton on May 30, 2012 No comments

Fish as a stand alone course has fallen from favour in the domestic entertainment arena. It often appears as a starter or a main but seldom as a course between the two. But Spry and Hume’s menu harks back to a time when French cuisine was revered above all others and multiple courses were the norm in polite society.

On the original coronation banquet menu Spry’s Truit de Rivière en Gelée is the one that has dated most markedly. Whole trout were lightly poached in white wine before being laid to rest on a bed of aspic then coated with a further layer of aspic and various garnishes. I don’t doubt that the finished dish looked spectacular but I imagine it looked something like a waxwork effigy to be admired like a Rodin sculpture rather than consumed.

It is a laborious process making aspic so you will be pleased to hear that I have not included it in this fish recipe. This is a delicious pâté which makes a perfect summer’s day lunch or starter. It is also light and could easily find a home between starter and main courses should you wish to revive the fish course tradition…

Smoked Trout Pâté with Beetroot Cured Salmon

Serves 4 – 6

Smoked trout pate with beetroot cured salmon

I love the contrast of the magenta salmon with the pale pink trout pâté. It is not essential to include the beetroot cured salmon layer anymore than it is essential to smoke your own trout. By all means use pre-prepared smoked trout fillets but just be aware that they may be saltier than the home smoked variety. If you do want to use the salmon you can find my recipe here.

To smoke your own trout


  • 2 whole rainbow trout, gutted and heads removed, rinsed
  • 100g coarse sea salt
  • Stovetop home smoker and some wood chips (I used alder)


  1. Put about a third of the salt on a board and place the prepared trout on top of it. Sprinkle the trout with the remaining salt rubbing some of it into the cavity. Leave for 30 minutes.
  2. Rinse the salt from the fish and pat dry. Place in the smoker and smoke according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I use a Cameron stovetop smoker and the fish takes about 25 – 30 minutes to cook.
  3. When the required smoking time if finished remove from the smoker and allow to cool. Take the skin off the fish and flake the flesh removing as many bones as possible.

To make the Pâté

Slice of smoked trout pateIngredients

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 4 hot smoked trout fillets
  • 75g sour cream or crème fraîche
  • 1 tbsp cream of horseradish
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Small bunch of snipped chives
  • Salt, pepper and more lemon juice to taste





  1. Melt the butter gently in a saucepan
  2. If you are using the salmon, remove the skin then slice Dicing the beetroot cured salmonacross the grain (I find this process easier by cutting the original fillet into two or three portions). Dice each slice so that you have roughly 5mm square pieces. You will probably only need about two thirds of the salmon but the rest can be saved for another day. Toss the salmon dice in a little lemon juice and leave to one side while you make the pâté.
  3. Put the remaining ingredients into a food processor. Process gradually adding the melted butter until thoroughly combined.
  4. Stop the motor and add the chives, pulsing a few times to mix into the pâté.
  5. Line a 500g loaf tin with cling film. If you are using the salmon, put the dice into the tin first, pressing down firmly (the top layer should be around 2cm deep). Then spoon the pâté into the lined tin on top of the salmon. Cover and refrigerate for several hours (preferably over night).
  6. When you are ready to serve the pâté, uncover and tip onto a plate or board. Remove the cling film liner, sprinkle with more chopped chives and cut into slices.

Alternative presentation

Individual portions of smoked trout pate

This dish works well as individual portions. I moulded the pâté in dariole moulds for a dinner party I hosted a couple of weeks ago. I served it with pea shoots, sorrel oil and fennel toast. For the toast I used my fennel bread cut into 1cm thick slices and brushed with extra virgin rapeseed oil (but olive oil would work too) and baked at 180°C for 5 – 10 minutes until crisp. The sorrel oil was made from 50g fresh sorrel leaves blitzed with 100ml rapeseed oil and a little salt to taste. I let this mixture infuse for an hour before passing through a sieve. The oil was then drizzled around the moulded pâté.

Sam BiltonThe one that got away

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