Crumpets with hot-smoked trout
I have come to crumpets very late in life. While the store-bought variety has been in pantries my whole life, I have never been drawn to them, until I had to make some for a comparative yeast batter exercise. Now I have a fascination for them. For most of my professional cooking life the batters of choice have been a yeasted blini batter lightened with egg whites, various forms of pancake batter – some lightened with whipped egg white and some not – and, of course, crepe batter.
The crumpet batter is the favoured recipe for a moment. I am enamoured with its yeastiness and the transformation it goes through from freshly cooked to toasted the next day. I am also delighted the homemade version sits equally comfortably with butter and honey as it does with smoked trout and crème fraîche. What makes them so delicious is the melting toppings filling the surface holes left by the released air.
For something made from such a simple batter, there is a bit of trial and error when cooking the crumpets to get them just right. Much will depend on your pan and your heat source.
Trout fishing is almost as curious a sport as the perfecting of a golden crumpet. While hot-smoked rainbow trout is readily available to buy, it is so much nicer done at home. There really is something incomparable about a freshly caught fish that is lightly brined and then hot smoked. It is also a great beginner’s exercise in understanding hot smoking.
This combination of crumpet and hot-smoked trout makes me yearn to escape to a tiny mountain shack on a river somewhere, where the art of “making breakfast” turns into a whole-day pursuit.
Time: 1 hour preparation and cooking
Basic crumpet batter
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 150g plain flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp ghee
- Mix the instant yeast into a tablespoon of warm water.
- Whisk the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder together. Whisk in 200 millilitres of warm water.
- Whisk in the yeast mix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover. Rest for 20-30 minutes.
- Heat a heavy-based skillet to medium hot. Grease the inside of four egg rings, add a tablespoon of ghee to the pan, place the greased rings in the pan and ladle in about a quarter of a cup of batter. After a minute turn the heat down, the idea being that the batter cooks slowly and the bubbles rise to the surface, creating the “holes”. The crumpet will need six to seven minutes to cook through. I like to flip them over for the last 30 seconds to kiss the second side with a bit of colour. Cool on a rack and continue cooking the batter.
- The crumpets can be eaten straight away but may have a rather doughy texture. I am quite taken with a freshly made crumpet – the doughy, yeasty texture and taste appeal to me. The purists, however, would tell you they are best left overnight and then toasted.
- For the brine
- 120g salt
- 100g brown sugar
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- handful chopped dill or fennel fronds
For the hot smoking
- 2 trout
- handful dill or fennel fronds
- 2 tbsp fragrant wood shavings
- 1 bunch dill
- 20ml crème fraîche
- 1 batch crumpets
- black pepper
- Bring the salt, sugar, fennel and one litre of water to the boil to dissolve the dry ingredients. Cool completely.
- Wash the fish thoroughly removing all signs of blood. Place in a non-reactive container. Immerse the fish in the brine and leave for an hour in the refrigerator. Rinse the fish, pat dry, and refrigerate for another three hours to dry completely. Stuff the fish with a few sprigs of herbs.
- Line your smoking wok with foil and add the wood shavings. Place a rack in the wok, oil slightly. Place the fish on the rack with plenty of space around each for the smoke to circulate. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil.
- Start over a medium heat. When wisps of smoke appear, turn the heat down and smoke for about 15 minutes. Check to see if the fish is cooked through. Leave resting in the wok away from the heat for about 15 minutes for the flavours to soften and develop.
- Eat warm, or refrigerate and use cold. Serve with crumpets, dill and crème fraîche and top with black pepper. Best eaten within 48 hours.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 5, 2022 as "Lo, your own crumpet".
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