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Roasted Bassano river trout, house-made butter and sage with borlotti bean and potato purée

Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook 
The Venetian Republic

PREP TIME 20 minutes, plus overnight soaking of the borlotti beans
COOKING TIME 1 hour 10 minutes

This dish hails from Bassano, and celebrates the region’s remarkable local river trout, made all the more enjoyable with home-made butter. It’s worth the effort to make your own, and it’s not nearly as daunting as some think. Don’t let the process distract you from the cooking of the fish though. One of my all-time favourite things to eat is whole fish, cooked on the bone. Take care, however, as it quickly loses its appeal when overcooked.

200 g (1 cup) dried borlotti beans
375 ml (1½ cups) Bassano extra virgin olive oil (or any quality extra virgin olive oil), plus extra for the fish
1 French shallot, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
20 g (1 cup) sage leaves
600 g (1 lb 5 oz) quality mashing potatoes
150 ml (generous ½ cup) Buttermilk (see below)
100 ml (scant ½ cup) single (pure) cream
4 whole plate-size trout
100 g (3½ oz) Butter (see below)
Juice of 1 lemon
Sage flowers or any edible flowers or herbs, to garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the dried borlotti beans in a saucepan and add 2.5 litres (10 cups) of water. Bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, drain and then cover with fresh water. Leave in the refrigerator overnight.

Drain and rinse the beans.

Pour 125 ml (½ cup) of the extra virgin olive oil into a saucepan and heat on the stovetop. Add the French shallot, garlic and a third of the sage and gently sauté until the French shallot and garlic are translucent. Do not season.

Add the borlotti beans and just cover with cold water.

Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for 45 minutes until the beans are tender. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend to a purée.

Meanwhile, wash, peel and quarter the potatoes. Put them in a large pan and cover with cold water. Add ½ tablespoon salt and cook over medium heat for 20–25 minutes or until soft. Drain the potatoes. Note that you want to time the beans and the potatoes to finish cooking at the same time, so the potatoes need to start cooking about 20 minutes after the beans.

Heat the buttermilk, cream and 200ml (generous ¾ cup) of the olive oil in another small pan. Bring up to high heat, but do not allow to boil. Add the buttermilk mixture to the hot, drained potatoes and mix with a wooden spoon. Push the potato mixture through a ricer and then a sieve into a large bowl. Add the borlotti bean purée and mix together.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

To make the roasted Bassano river trout, score across the fillets of the whole fish with a sharp knife, making about five incisions 1 cm (½ inch) deep on each side of the fish.

Rub the trout outside and inside the scoring cuts and inside the cavity with 70 g (2½ oz) of the butter, ensuring the fish have a generous covering. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper to taste. Place a sage leaf in each of the score incisions and then place two additional sage leaves in the cavity of each fish.

Put the remaining butter and oil on a baking tray and heat in the oven until the butter starts to bubble.

Arrange the trout on the hot tray and roast in the oven for 6 minutes. Turn the fish over and roast for another 4-5 minutes, taking care not to overcook the fish in the hot oven Remember that the fish will continue to cook after it is taken from the oven - the goal is to have the fish just cooked and with a crispy, buttery skin.

Remove the trout and deglaze the pan with the lemon juice. Serve the trout on a bed of the potato and borlotti bean purée and pour the pan juices over the top of the fish. Garnish with sage flowers or any edible flowers or herbs.


MAKES approximately 360 g (13 oz) butter
MAKES approximately 475 ml (scant 2 cups) buttermilk
PREP TIME: 30 minutes

900 ml (33/4 cups) cream
1 tablespoon sea salt

To make butter, place the cream in a mixing bowl and whisk until the buttermilk separates from the butter solids.

Drain the buttermilk and reserve. You will be left with approximately 400 g (14 oz) butter. Place the butter into a muslin cloth and rinse under cold running water until all the remaining buttermilk has been removed.

Wring the butter in a clean muslin cloth to remove as much of the remaining liquid as possible.

While the butter is still soft, mix in the salt in a dry mixing bowl and store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

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