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Salt Baked Rainbow Trout with Tarator and Verjuice Pickled Fennel

           Traditionally, Lebanese tarator is the tahini-based sauce poured over falafel. In this recipe, almond meal and bread are the base, making something just as moreish but a little more substantial. You can use salmon, or ocean trout for this recipe too. This recipe serves four people. 

For the fish
2kg table salt
4 x 300-400g whole rainbow trout, scaled, cleaned
4 large dill sprigs
1 lemon, sliced into rounds. 

Tarator
1 piece of stale bread 
1 clove garlic, minced 
4 tablespoons tahini 
2 lemons, juiced 
250g almond meal
250ml water 
Salt, to taste 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil to finish 

Verjuice pickled fennel 
2 medium bulbs fennel, thinly sliced 
500ml verjuice 
50g castor sugar 
2 cups, mixed salad greens for garnish. Such as dill, rocket, parsley. 
Extra virgin olive oil and flake salt to taste 
 
For the tarator


Break up bread into pieces then soak in lemon juice until soft. Blitz in a blender until smooth then add tahini, a pinch of salt, and garlic. Slowly add almond meal, and then water. Check for consistency and seasoning, keep in mind the dip will thicken up as it rests because of the bread in it. Add olive to finish. 

For the fennel 


Slice the fennel as fine as you can. Bring the verjuice up to a boil with the sugar in a small saucepan. Once it's come up, take it off the heat and add in the fennel. If the liquid does not totally cover the fennel, weigh it down with a small plate. Leave like that to cool for about half an hour before removing. I like serving this cold, so I'd put it in the fridge after that, but the fennel can be served at room temperature too. 

For the fish 


Combine salt with around 1/2 cup of water in a bowl, until it resembles moist sand. Place a sprig of dill and some sliced lemon in the belly cavity of each fish. Prepare two baking trays with baking paper, divide fish between them.  Cover the bodies of the fish completely with the salt mixture and pack it down as if making a sandcastle. 

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tip of a sharp knife feels hot after being inserted in the thickest part of the fish. Rest fish for 5 minutes.

To serve, crack the salt crust and pull it away from the top of the fish. Remove skin. Take the cooled fennel and drain. Toss it through the salad greens and season with salt and olive oil. Plate the fish individually, with a handful of salad and a generous spoon of dip.