It was quite easy, growing up in tropical Queensland, to stumble across the rambling River mint bush, or Mentha Australis, whilst bush walking through rainforest or along creeks. It is also prevalent in the Yarra River region of Victoria as well as the Murray Darling Basin of NSW and QLD.
River mint was in fact one of the first herbs utilised by Australian settlers, particularly when it came to the preparation of lamb. But long before that, the Koori and Murri people crushed and steeped River mint leaves in water to make a cooling drink or inhaled the aroma of the leaves to ease coughs and colds.
With a spearmint taste it can be used much like common garden mint to make ice cream, sorbets, biscuits, chocolate desserts, dressings , juleps and jams. In the RiverMint Dining kitchen, however, we like to use it in the preparation of some lovely Pemberton Freshwater Trout. It has an aftertaste similar to mixed Italian herbs, which are more prevalent when cooked and which help to add subtle aromatics to the slightly muddy taste of freshwater trout. And if picked when in flower, the mauve florets of native River mint make a beautiful garnish. All you need is a medium sized whole trout, a big bunch of River Mint, olive oil, some salt & pepper, 1 lime and 2 garlic cloves.
- Simply take a whole trout, gutted and scaled and season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime juice.
- Pick the Rivermint leaves and blanch very quickly (20 seconds) in boiling water. Refresh in iced cold water. Lay the mint leaves out on some baking paper in a straight line, wide enough to be able to wrap around the trout.
- Lay the trout down on the leaves, and wrap the edges around the trout. Continue to cover the top side of the trout with the leaves until the whole fish is well wrapped. Place trout on baby paper on oven tray at cooked at 220 degrees for 7-8 minutes (until fish is just firm when pushed). Ideally it should still be slightly pink near the bone. I often add some extra dried crushed River Mint and Saltbush leaves for seasoning.
- In the meantime wash and chop remaining mint leaves and blitz with seasoning, lime zest,crushed garlic cloves, lime juice and olive oil to taste using an immersion stick blender.
- Once cooked, unwrap the fish and drizzle with the RiverMint vinaigrette and if desired some thinly sliced red onion. Serve with a light mixed leaf salad, cherry tomatoes and some quick boiled chat potatoes.