Whole Roasted Trout with Turmeric and Piri Piri

My earliest memory of piri piri was of a jar of the things my mother had in her kitchen. For some reason completely unknown to me she had a huge quantity of dried bird’s eye chillies – I think perhaps someone had given them to her as a gift – and as far I know, we never actually ate them. Such an ingredient wasn’t common in the dishes of my childhood, and since I didn’t really know the flavour I decided that the best thing to do would be to just try one. Except I wasn’t stupid.

No, actually I decided the best course of action would be to offer one to a friend of mine (who luckily had even less of an idea than I did about such things). He was dubious but I told him that it was “really good” and he just “has to try it”. His reaction after he’d taken a dozen chews told me pretty much everything I needed to know about piri piri back then, and it wasn’t until much more recently, now that my tastes have developed, and my chilli-tolerance has improved as an adult that I’ve tried to incorporate them into more dishes.

I love cooking whole fish – I haven’t quite plucked up the courage yet to get one which hasn’t been gutted and cleaned (though judging by the guides I’ve seen online it’s pretty easy) so will always get prepared fish, or – failing that – have the guy manning the fish stall at the local market do it for me with a few deft motions. Cooking fish like this is enormously satisfying. I don’t know whether it’s a throwback to a recessed caveman gene or something but preparing a whole trout for cooking feels so wholesome, so good, so… primal almost.

Fresh Raw Trout

I was delighted to see five small trout available nearby for €7.50 for the lot. Each one is enough for one person when served with accompanying side dishes, though those with big appetites would probably want to go for two each. There are the purists, who believe that the absolute best way of serving good, fresh fish is simply pan-fried with a little butter. That’s fine – I completely get the attraction of this, but sometimes I like to switch things up a bit, and anything that helps me use my enormous tub of turmeric is fine by me (seriously, I have no reason why I bought so much!).

Trout prepared for roasting

The good thing about roasting them like this is that the delicate flavour of the fish still comes through. It doesn’t get overwhelmed by the rub. You can of course vary the rub to suit your preferences, but I find this particular mix works well and sure makes for good eating!

Roasted Trout with Turmeric and Piri Piri

Whole Roasted Trout with Turmeric and Piri Piri
Serves 5
A simple method of preparing fresh whole fish
Write a review
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
55 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
55 min
  1. 5 small whole Trout, gutted and cleaned
  2. 1 Lemon
  3. 2 tbsps Olive Oil
For the rub
  1. 1tbsp Mustard Seeds
  2. 1tbsp dried Piri Piri Chillies
  3. 2tsps Turmeric
  4. 2tsps ground Cumin
  5. Freshly ground Salt and Pepper
  1. Start off by preheating your oven to 200 degrees Celsius and then run the fishes under cold water, rubbing all over to remove any slime.
  2. Place all the ingredients for the rub, including a few good twists of salt and pepper, into a pestle and mortar and pound everything together well until the mustard seeds and chillies have broken down.
  3. Using a sharp knife, make three or four cuts along each side of the fishes. The cut should be deep enough to pierce both the skin and penetrate into the flesh below.
  4. Work the rub into each side of the fishes and into the cavity where it was gutted. Cut the lemon into thin slices and stuff the cavities with lemon slices before arranging the fishes on a baking tray.
  5. Drizzle with a little olive oil and place into the preheated oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, turning once during cooking and draining off liquid which has accumulated in the pan; this will help the skin stay crisp.
  6. Serve with accompaniments of your choosing - potatoes, salad, steamed vegetables etc.
Five Euro Food http://www.fiveeurofood.com/


  1. says

    Now that’s a dish my dear husband has to like! You see he is still not used to our European fish but the next time we are in Europe I ll make sure that I try your recipe and I am pretty sure that it’s awesome with the turmeric etc. I don’t know if you noticed but turmeric removes the fishy smell that we Europeans don’t seem to perceive. Well, that’s what the Goans say at least… 😉 Looks mouthwatering good Charles!

    • says

      Hi Helene – I noticed someone further down mentioned that turmeric removed the smell from cooking lamb too… I must say I didn’t really notice, but I’ll pay attention next time – thanks for the tip :)

  2. says

    Poor friend!! Ha!

    My earliest memory of piri piri is just- well, Nandos really. First time I tried the flavour – yum!

    Love the idea of this with some golden turmeric and definitely beautiful on a whole trout. I love cookign with whole fish too- everything stays so tender and succulent; much harder to overcook, and looks pretty impressive when you carry a platter of fish with their heads and tails still on out 😉

    • says

      Eek, I can imagine… cleaning a chicken – that’s something I want to try too one day, but I’ll probably get started on fish first I think 😀

  3. says

    This dish looks beautiful. I wish I didn’t have my menu set for the next couple of weeks because I love whole trout and the recipe would be a great excuse to finally use my mortar and pestle. I’d probably stir the dry spices into a tsp or so of piri piri sauce. :)

    • says

      I never had piri piri sauce… I’ve only seen the whole dried chillies – sauce sounds lovely though, and good idea to stir the spices in, that would be great!

  4. says

    Beautiful looking fish with the yellow turmeric and I love your spice rub. I don’t cook whole fish very often, but in the past when I have, it came out really nice and moist.
    You know you can add turmeric to any meat dish you are cooking, I put it in everything, Indian or Italian and so on, it kills the meats smell and it’s a natural antiseptic. It doesn’t leave a taste if you only use a teaspoon or so.


    • says

      Oh nice tip Nazneen, thanks a lot! I must admit, I quite like the smell of cooking meat, but lamb has a very distinctive flavour, I can see why some people might not like it as Jean mentioned below!

  5. says

    That’s a lovely looking meal, Charles. I think cooking fish simply is always the best. I have lots of tumeric too. I don’t know why I have so many packets of it in my pantry – it’s not like I use it every day. Five trout for that price seems very reasonable xx

    • says

      Haha, I bought a huge tub of it! I have no idea why I bought such a large quantity. I bought similar sized tubs of other spices… cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, curry powder… everything else I’ve used and replaced many times, but that darn turmeric is still there :D.

  6. says

    What a very interesting rub for trout! I usually stuff them with lemons and fresh herbs, but never a run and never these spices. Love them! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • says

      Thanks MJ – I love that the outer areas of the flesh which come into contact with the turmeric take on a gorgeous colour from the spice, and the faint background flavour of it – would definitely recommend it!

  7. says

    I never thought of using piri piri in fish always with chicken, in fact I had them yesterday for dinner. What a great idea, will try them with my leftover homemade piri piri sauce

    • says

      Mm, you’re the second person to mention piri piri sauce now! Have you ever posted a recipe about it? I’ll have to go check your blog out to see!

  8. says

    The trouts look wonderful and so sunny! A nice warm touch at this beginning of the autumn. This is second time (after Shuhan’s lovely fish post) that I promise myself I must fry or grill fish with turmeric. I have tons of it too! (I even bought whole dried turmeric I wonder now why…).
    I think I gutted a fish for the first time maybe at the age of five (I used to fish a lot with my father), so I can assure you it’s incredibly easy and takes one minute. I now do it all the time if I want to have small fresh fish (they don’t gut small fish in my shop for restaurants). The difficult part is filleting because every fish is a bit different. Well, there is also something even more difficult: “butterflying” the fish (when I prepare aji no hiraki (dried and grilled horse mackerel) it needs to be done this way). My big dream is to train in Japan with a cook specialised in fish (not sushi or sashimi, just fish). They are the best in fish preparation.

    • says

      Wow, WHOLE dried turmeric? I’d love to see a photo of it… could you take one for me? Well – I could just go and google one actually, save you the trouble! I’ve never thought about where “turmeric” comes from… I’ve only ever known it as the powder!

      I bought such a HUGE pot because the damn name in French “tricked” me. I saw “colombo moulu” and thought that “Colombo” sounded very exciting… this was some years ago. Most spices and herbs are very similar between English and French, but it seems that this stuff is completely different indeed!

      • says

        Charles, “colombo” is a kind of curry (mixture of spices) from French overseas territories. “Curcuma” is turmeric. Have you prepared your fish with colombo?

        • says

          Aah, no, my mistake – it’s definitely turmeric that I used – I was just getting the French names confused. I remember seeing “curcuma” and thinking it sounded exciting, and then I got home and found out that it was just turmeric, alas.

          Come to think of it, I don’t even think I have any colombo… is it nice?

          I transfer all my spices to specially labelled tupperware boxes (in English!!) so I don’t get confused 😀

      • says

        Yes, I will take a photo of whole dried turmeric! I have just come back from another trip (not holidays alas), but I will do it, promise.

  9. says

    This is close to something we cook in Bengal, only we replace the piri piri with dried red chili. But we never bake it, deep frying is the way to go, hahaha! More unhealthy, more tasty I guess, lol! I am going to definitely try this version. I love the idea of seasoning and baking.

    • says

      Ooh, deep frying sounds even better – yum! Is that the one you had on your blog a while back with the fish which had a million bones, or am I thinking of something else?

  10. says

    I have never cooked a whole fish, but I can certainly understand the attraction, the presentation is quite lovely indeed. Turmeric is a beautiful spice, I just love the colour and I bet it imparts a fantastic earthy flavour. Quite smart of you not to try the whole chilli yourself, did your friend ever forgive you? I hope you had some yogurt or milk to offer him, I find milk products really help sooth the mouth burn from hot foods.

    • says

      Oh, you should Eva – the bigger the fish the better… it’s incredibly satisfying having this silky, smooth whole fish to work with, stuffing in good, fresh ingredients… feels so wholesome!

      My friend did indeed forgive me, though not before he’d dispensed a small beating unto me :p.

  11. says

    Heheheh, reminds me of the Life cereal ad — “I’m not going to eat it, let’s get Mikey to try it!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYEXzx-TINc (I don’t even want to know how old that commercial is – oy! I remember it like it was yesterday).

    This is the definition of ‘whole foods’ eating Charles – love it. Does the caveman desire extend to fishing too? I like the choice of turmeric – I don’t incorporate it enough into my diet; lots of great research on the health benefits of this spice.

    • says

      lol, that advert! 😀

      I went fishing once… I’ve gotta say, I kind of felt bad, killing the fish, which made me feel kind of conflicted, after all, I’ll happily eat it!

      It’s a feeling I want to overcome, especially since I want to rear (and slaughter) my own chickens and turkeys some day. I think there’s nothing wrong with feeling “bad” about the killing of the animal. That’s perfectly natural and at least demonstrates care and respect of the beast – you just have to make sure you can overcome the initial barrier to carrying it out!

  12. says

    Gutting fish is really easy once you get used to it (though you have to be comfortable looking at everything). It’s pretty common thing to do in the kitchen in Japan and I think we learned it in home and economics class at school too (thinking now I think Japanese public schools have pretty gourmet cooking class for children LOL). Anyway, I love how you prepared this trout with tutrmeric and piri piri. My stomach tolerance for heat is slightly better compared to before and will certainly enjoy this dish! Looks very very delicious!

    • says

      Haha, I’m thinking back to my home economics classes at school… I think we learned things like making “rice krispie cakes”… nothing so advanced as gutting fish! 😀

  13. says

    Well I’d say you’re making quite good use of your turmeric. I’ve always wanted to cook a whole fish, but it’s really intimidating to me. I know I should just try it. This sounds really good. I’m sure it’s too spicy for the kids, but Mike and I would likely love it. Would you believe I don’t have any turmeric in the kitchen?! I’m going to have to fix that. I used it this weekend making Indian food. I’m not sure how I’ve never used it before now. Crazy!

    • says

      Hi Kristy – it wasn’t too spicy actually, although the spiciness can easily be reduced further by cutting out or drastically reducing the piri piri!

      I wouldn’t bother buying too much turmeric… I almost never use it, so a small quantity should suffice! :)

  14. says

    Hi Charles, long time no comment! My laptop died for a while there so I have been very quiet.
    As usual, you had me laughing out loud at your evil story of conning your gullible friend into munching the chilli! Still, at the end of the day, it’s his fault for deciding to do it!
    Your trout look lovely. Trout cooked whole is the best…and simply too. It needs very little. Although I do find the trouts (and the mackerels) very small here in France compared to the UK… But size is not everything! I shall have to try your rub. x

    • says

      Hi Anneli – nice to see you again… my laptop broke a while back but I’d ordered another on Amazon that same day and I was back online within less than 24 hours, lol! I’m a little internet-addicted… not sure what I’d do without my connection to the world!

      Trout are small here aren’t they… tiny in fact. I remember my uncle used to fish for trout in Scotland and they were enormous!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *