The simple joy of three seasonal delights. Sea trout, asparagus and Cornish new potatoes. None require much in the way of preparation, are easily and quickly cooked, and taste like the month of May on a plate. A fresh blast of salt sea air through the marram grass across the greensward of the fields beyond, heralding potent summer days.
My wild sea trout come from South Shields at the mouth of the River Tyne. Netted in the mouth of the river a bit of salt and freshwater migratory life makes these strong muscled fish, with pinky flesh. More delicately flavoured than salmon. And more meaningful to eat than anything farmed.
Cornish Earlies have become another May regular in recent years. Like Jersey Royals they’re planted in the marine climate in January and harvested in April. By now, they are at their best. If you never eat another potato, eat one of these first. Flaky skin, yellow flesh and intense tastiness.
Like the potatoes, you should avoid buying asparagus too early. It might have been mild but without the intense sunshine to warm the soil it can be woody.
Sea Trout with Clams
Clean the sea trout, lay flat and score the flesh at diagonals on each side. Rub in salt and grate in the zest of a lemon, squeezing the juice on too. Add some olive oil and fresh ground pepper. Put the lemon husks into the cavity along with a bunch of bay leaves.
The skin of any oily fish is a bit cloying but grilled crispy still retains some of those lovely healthy oils. So pop your sea trout under the grill until it starts browning before, turning it over when one side is done.
For the clams. Chop some garlic large, chuck in a pan with olive oil, chopped smoked bacon (pancetta or really any kind of charcuterie will do just as well), chopped or dried oregano, salt and pepper. More lemon squeezed. Add the clams and seal with a lid, while the shells click open. After a few minutes nicely sizzling, pour over some anise (I use Ricard a lot for risottos and cooking fish generally). When it’s reduced a bit, add quarter pot of cream. Pour the whole around the side of the sea trout.
Warm Jersey Royal Salad with Tarragon Mayo & Asparagus
I never know whether adding mint to potatoes when you are boiling them makes any real difference to the end result. And often prefer to add a bit of chopped mint when they are cooked. Either way the smell in the kitchen is green and reminiscent of childhood, or something. So, boil your potatoes whole in well salted water with mint. Immediately they are cooked just pour cold water over them and empty it out, to stop them further cooking. Chop them in half and throw in a red onion finely chopped, fresh pepper and chopped tarragon. Add mayonnaise. Home made. Here’s how. Take an egg yolk, a dash of white wine vinegar, a teaspoon of mustard, pinch of salt and wizz it up with some tarragon. Then slowly add more and more olive oil at a slow drip until it emulsifies. Frankly, if it doesn’t (as it often doesn’t) it still tastes delicious. Generously apply to potatoes and churn.
Cook the asparagus as you like and lay it on top of the potatoes.