Smoked trout with brown butter and rhubarb

  • medium
  • 10
  • 2 hours 30 minutes plus fermenting, curing and infusing time

This advanced trout and rhubarb recipe from Nicholas Balfe includes brown butter mayonnaise, a rhubarb-infused ponzu, and a fermented rhubarb paste inspired by umeboshi. Any leftover umeboshi-inspired salted rhubarb or rhubarb ponzu can be used in Japanese dishes in a similar way to traditional ponzu and umeboshi paste. The umeboshi paste, crispy trout skin and ponzu all need to be prepared in advance.

First published in 2023




Rhubarb ‘umeboshi’

Crispy Trout Skin

  • fish skin, removed from the trout
  • vegetable oil, for deep frying
  • salt

Rhubarb ponzu

Smoked trout

Brown butter mayonnaise

To serve


  • Blender
  • Squeezy bottle
  • Stove-top smoker
  • Apple wood chips



Make the rhubarb ‘umeboshi’ paste at least 72 hours in advance. Toss everything together, cover and set aside at room temperature to ferment for at least 72 hours, stirring twice a day. After this time, remove the bay and thyme, then blend until smooth


12 hours before, make the crispy trout skin. Remove the skin from the side of the trout and scrape any remaining fat from the skin. Dehydrate at 45ºC for 12 hours until crisp


Also 12 hours before, make the ponzu. Mix all the ingredients together and infuse for 12 hours or overnight with the rhubarb trimmings. Once infused, strain and transfer to a squeeze bottle


To cure the trout, mix together the salt and sugar, then sprinkle half on a tray large enough to hold the trout. Lay the fish on top and sprinkle the remainder of the salt/sugar mix on top. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours to cure 


After 3 hours, rinse and pat dry completely with clean jay cloths, then cold smoke over Applewood smoking chips, either using a covered perforated tray over a gastro on the hob, a smoking gun, or a smoking chamber. Let the smoke permeate for at least one hour, trim off the belly and tail for use on another dish, then slice into 3mm slices


To make the mayonnaise, brown the butter in a pan over a medium heat, stirring continuously, until the solids have reached a nut brown colour. Set aside to cool to just above room temperature 


In a food processor, blend the egg yolk, Dijon mustard and white wine vinegar together. Gradually emulsify in the liquid butter with the machine running, including the browned solids. Once the butter is emulsified, gradually add the vegetable oil. Season with lemon juice and salt then transfer to a squeezy bottle and set aside at room temperature


Shave the raw rhubarb using a vegetable peeler into iced water. Set aside for about 30 minutes to crisp and curl up


Once the fish skin has dehydrated, break it into pieces and deep-fry at 200ºC or until puffed up. Drain on kitchen paper and season with salt

  • vegetable oil, for deep frying
  • salt

Blanch and refresh the sea purslane

  • sea purslane

Next, assemble the dish. For each serving, use a pastry brush to dab 3 trout slices with the rhubarb umeboshi and arrange then in a serving bowl. Squeeze 5 pea-sized dots of brown butter mayonnaise in and around the trout slices. Drizzle 40ml ponzu over the trout. Top with 3 slices of raw rhubarb and 5 pieces of sea purslane. Drizzle 10ml smoked rapeseed oil over the dish. Finally, top it with 3 thumbnail pieces of crispy trout skin. Repeat for the other servings, then serve immediately

First published in 2023

Following the huge success of his trio of London restaurants Salon, Levan and Larry’s, Nicholas Balfe relocated to Somerset in 2021 to open his newest venture Holm, where provenance and seasonality play a larger role in his food than ever before.

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