I remember Nan, up to her elbows in prawn shells and lobster, sighing happily and saying, “I wonder what the rich people are up to today?” And we’d laugh, because we knew that we were rich in all the ways that really mattered.
When I was growing up, we didn’t do the whole hot roast dinner at Christmas time. This was partly because it’s summer, but mainly because for many Christmases we were down the South Coast of New South Wales on holidays. We stayed in a campground near Narooma in our beautiful old timber van that my grandfather had built in the 1950s. We had a big canvas annexe and a folding table with seats. We left a letter at our house each year to let Santa know that we were on holidays, and how to find us. I didn’t think much about it as a kid, but now I try to imagine Christmas without a working kitchen and I marvel at how Mum managed to make Christmas lunch happen!
In those days, we used to go prawning in the inlet with our torches and hand-nets on dark, moonless nights. Sometimes the tide was just right in the middle of the night, and off we’d go in our joggers and jeans, up to our chests in running water, trying to spot their glowing little eyes. Dad also used to throw in a couple of lobster pots off the rocky beach – so, if we were really lucky, we’d have prawns and lobster for Christmas lunch, along with the ham and salads.
This ocean trout with seafood is a lot more decadent than those simple Christmases by the ocean, but it still brings me memories of eating fresh, beautiful food and feeling like the king of the world.
Whole fresh ocean trout (approx 2kg), cleaned, head intact
12 green prawns, peeled and deveined
12 mussels, removed from shells
12 calamari rings
1 lemon, sliced
¼ cup (35g) chopped pistachios
1 lemon, juiced
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Make sure there are no scales left on the fish, and the insides have been cleaned thoroughly. Tear a sheet of non-stick baking paper and another of heavy foil, both about 30cm longer than the fish. Lay the baking paper on the foil and place the fish in the centre.
Mix the prawns, mussels and calamari together and stuff them into the cavity of the fish, then place the lemon slices, slightly overlapping, on top of the fish. Sprinkle it with chopped pistachios and then pour over the lemon juice. Season generously.
Wrap the foil and baking paper around the fish, doubling the seams over several times to ensure no juices can escape. The main seam should be on top and run from the fish’s head to its tail. Place the foil package in the oven and cook for 45 minutes. (For a larger trout, adjust the cooking time. A general rule is about 15 minutes per 500g.)
Remove the fish from the oven and check that it is cooked. The eye should be white and the flesh just underdone, as it will continue to cook while resting. Do not remove the foil or baking paper, just tear a little hole near the fish’s head to check. If it is not ready, return the package to the oven for a further 10–15 minutes and then check again.
Place the package on a serving platter and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Mop up any excess juices with paper towel. To serve the fish whole at the table, neatly unwrap the foil and baking paper along the top seam. Carve the fish into segments, and carefully lift each slice with an egg flip onto each plate. The seafood stuffing is served to the side. When the top half of the fish is served, lift away the backbone and any other visible bones, exposing the bottom half, then serve the remaining fish.
JULIE GOODWIN’S NEW BOOK CLASSIC IS OUT NOW.
Published in ed#700