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Rainbow Trout Stuffed with Walnuts and Plums - Balyg Lavangi

Blogging again

This is my second blog post in the last few weeks featuring another recipe that requires plums.

It is a great thing that there are still plums available on the green grocers' shelves, and I'm not too late with the recipe!

I'm very excited to be back blogging again and to have this outlet for expression, a quiet place to put pen to paper, so to speak. I know, many people on social media claim that 'blogging is dead' and say things such as 'who reads blogs these days anyway?' but I do read blogs, and I'm sure there are millions of others who do as well. I also think blogs are great, and I love how they offer a peaceful alternative to the constant chatter and chaos that other social platforms have currently become.

For a while, I was tempted to start a newsletter on Substack and maybe even make some money from subscriptions eventually. But after going through the steps and writing this whole post there, I opted out and came back to my blog. (For those who are not familiar with Substack, it's a subscription-based publishing platform where authors can offer free or paid content.)

The reason I opted out, at least for now, is that Substack is another platform where things change rapidly, new features are continuously added, and like other platforms, authors are encouraged to use all the available tools to 'grow.' At this time in my life, while I juggle parenthood and farmwork, adding an extra job and mental load to my already long to-do list seems like a silly thing to do. However, I still visit Substack regularly and have favourite authors whom I really enjoy reading. A few notable mentions include our local Margaret River-based food writer Max Brearley whose life musings, interviews with chefs and restaurant recommendations I really enjoy reading. Another favourite to read is US-based food writer and coach Dianne Jacob, with whom I had the immense pleasure of working on my cookbook proposal (which is currently on the back burner, waiting for me to gather my things and have the courage to shop it around), Dianne is wealth of knowledge when it comes to anything cookbook publishing and writing and exceptionally compassionate coach. Summer Brennan is another author whom I love reading along with Edible Living by Sarah Copeland.

Perhaps sometime in the future, I will make a dash to Substack and join the community there. But for now, my focus is on writing about things that inspire me and honing my English skills (you may not know it, but I didn't speak the language until I was well into my 20s), teaching cooking classes, establishing my farm kitchen garden, developing recipes and photographing food for client.

Pemberton, Southern Forests Region WA

Every year, as November rolls in, Southern Forests region with its majestic backdrop of tall karri trees comes alive. Excited freshwater fishing enthusiasts flock to the banks of dams and rivers, anticipating the beginning of trout season. This is a time when rainbow and brown trout are released into the rivers and dams, with the Warren, Donnelly, and Blackwood rivers being the most popular stocking locations.

In early 2020, just prior to the madness of the global pandemic, we bought a 65-acre farm in Pemberton, a small town in the Southern Forests region. I shall mention that Pemberton is the home to the historic trout hatchery. It has been there since 1930’s!

When we first saw the farm, it was in desperate need of love. There were mangled and broken fences, an old shed destroyed by termites, barely standing. The previous owners had even dug out a massive crater on the side of the old shed to build unsightly motorbike jumps around the house, obscuring the view to the dam that has the most beautiful scene of tall karri trees. And the house itself. It was filled with what looked like verge dumped furniture and a gazillion mattresses. Not to mention the decade's worth of mice poop hidden in every kitchen cabinet!

But despite all that, we saw the potential. We bid for it at an auction the next day and it was ours. From there on followed months of cleaning and renovations, and the following year we planted our own trufflery, but that's a story for another blog post.

Easter fishing at the farm and about our trip to Lankaran in Southeast of Azerbaijan

Right by the southern boundary of our farm flows the Warren River. Besides being a trout and marron hotspot, it is a favourite stomping ground for my two kids. Last autumn, during Easter weekend my French friend Liz came down to the farm with her three boys, two of whom, as I found out, are avid fishers. With the first glimpses of the rising sun and fueled by chocolates dutifully dropped by the Easter Bunny the previous night, Liz's boys and my two loaded their fishing gear into the back of the farm's mule and set off on their fishing expedition.

I didn't expect them to catch any as we had no success only a few days prior, but to my surprise, they came back with a decent bounty of rainbow trout. I asked the older kids to gut and scale the fish, which they did a marvellous job of.

I wanted to keep the fish whole so I could make one of my favourite traditional recipes, lavangi. It is a dish commonly made in the southeast of Azerbaijan, mainly in Lankaran region. Nestled between the Caspian Sea and the Talysh mountains, right on the border with Iran, the influence of Persian cuisine is more notable here than in any other parts of Azerbaijan. Pomegranate molasses, walnuts, abgora (a unique type of verjuice), tangy plum paste, and an abundance of fresh herbs are revered staples in the local cuisine. So many wonderful seafood recipes are a part of the area.

Like most Azerbaijani cooking, lavangi isn't complicated. It's all about getting a few steps right and choosing the most wholesome ingredients you can find. Toasted ground walnuts, fried red onion, sumac, and a paste made with red plums are mixed into a thick pulp and stuffed inside the fish's cavity. Another option is to use poultry or aubergines. In Lankaran, they cook lavangi inside a dome shaped clay oven called tandyr. However, since I don't own a clay oven, and I imagine neither of you do either, I bake mine in the conventional oven which with few tweaks to the cooking schedule works just a treat.

The last time I had the joy of indulging in this nutty and tangy dish was in 2019 during a family trip to the south of Azerbaijan. It was the first and only time all four of us traveled to Azerbaijan together. When we arrived in Lankaran, we didn't have any accommodation arrangements, so we had no idea where we would be staying. Our whole three-week trip was full of spontaneity. We loaded ourselves into the white Land Cruiser we had hired in Baku, where we stayed with my mum in her apartment and returned to after each stint out of the big city. We would quickly stop by a supermarket to buy snacks for the kids and water, and then hit the road. One of the best things about traveling in Azerbaijan is that no matter which part of the country you are driving to, and no matter how far from the big city centres, there are always places often hidden amongst the trees along the road to stop for tea served in rosebud-shaped glasses with sweet glossy fruit preserves, or there is pretty much always freshly baked tandyr bread and kebab.

After a short drive around town and a quick Google search for a place to stay, we found ourselves checking in into a boutique hotel, Khan Lankaran. I instantly fell in love with it. The building was made with large cobblestones, rammed earth, and wood, and the interior walls were adorned with colourful vintage ornate rugs. Antique copper and silver trays, pots, and vessels made with clay were cleverly placed throughout the hallways and gave the place a nostalgic and transportive feel. It made me imagine how palaces might have looked centuries ago.

As a last-minute booking we only managed to secure a small room for all four of us (two kids and two adults). As a result of our endless positivity my husband and I ended up sleeping on a foldout single seat couch while we graciously granted the double bed to the kids. In spite of the hemmed in sleeping arrangements this stay turned out to be one of our favourite experiences during the trip. We spent the most wonderful three days there. We explored the neighboring slopes of the mountainous Lerik, drove near the border with Iran (which strangely felt as if we were up to something illegal), enjoyed lunches by the sea, and embarked on a quest to find tea plantations. There were also the most delicious white cherries, fruit leathers, and of course the tandyr baked lavangi masterfully cooked by the local chef.

Recipe for Balyg (Fish) Lavangi and Alycha (Plum) Paste

Plum Paste

500g red plums (sweet and sour variety)

1 1/2 tbsp raw sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt

Wash and cut plums in half. Remove the pip and place the halves into small saucepan. Add 1 tbsp of water and rest of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook over a low heat for about an hour. You will need to stir the plum sauce from time to time to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan. The consistency of the sauce should be thick similar to jam, so watch it intently and keep stirring a little more frequently towards the end of cooking as it will be more so prone to sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the sauce has thickened sufficiently move it to a jar and seal straight away. Once cooled to room temperature move to the fridge. The sauce should be good to use for around 2 months. As and alternative to keeping the sauce refrigerated in the jar, cool the sauce and portioned into ice block moulds then freeze. Once frozen move to an airtight container and keep in the freezer.


Serves - 4

4 medium size rainbow trout, scaled and gutted

200g walnuts, toasted and ground in a blender

1 red onion, diced

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons plum paste

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp sumac

4-6 turns from Peppermill

2-3 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat oven to 180C Fan

Wash and pat dry the fish. Rub with salt and pepper all over the fish including inside the cavity.

Add red onion and butter to a small pan and fry stirring occasionally over medium heat until onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Combine ground walnuts, fried onions, pomegranate molasses, plum paste, salt, sumac and pepper in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking if needed.

Using a spoon fill the cavity of each fish with the walnut filling. To keep the filling from spilling out tie the fish with butchers’ twine or pin the cavity shut with toothpicks. Rub the top of the fish with a small amount of plum paste and brush with remaining melted butter.

Brush baking tray with melted butter and place fish on top. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until flesh flakes off easily.

I serve this dish with saffron scented dill pilaf studded with barberries the recipe for which I will share in my next blog along with various ways you can cook rice for a pilaf.

Books I am reading

Moro East by Sam & Sam Clark. A cookbook filled with many wonderful Eastern Mediterranean recipes from the allotment East of London which Sam&Sam have followed for a year.

Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. A novel of three sisters, two countries (Iran and Ireland) and the language of food.

The Siege by Helen Dunmore. World War II Leningrad, September 1941 a battle for survival in a city under siege.


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