Yet another Fish Pie!

What’s not to like about fish pie? Well everything if you don’t like fish, but for those of you who do, there has to be as many recipes as the proverbial Shake a Stick!

My go to version of late has been an adaption of Richard Corrigan’s simple fish pie, however this week saw yet another incarnation of yet another version. This time around it has a slight curry flavour, which if you like curry as Himself does, then this the way forward.

It contains,of course a mixture of fish along with hard boiled eggs and potatoes as well as some spinach, very much a variation on a theme.

Before Lockdown #1,#2 and three, I would raid my “Fish” freezer to find an assortment of fish, but nowadays I just buy along with my Fish order a portion of fish pie mix. So, OK this might be just ends from the fishmongers chopping board, but there is nothing wrong with that. In my mix was about 35% salmon and the rest assorted white fish. There is no waste, no skin, no bones. To this I added two small fillets of smoked haddock and a handful of frozen prawns, All in all I had +/- a kilo of fish.

A kilo of fish makes for at least 6 portions, but for me as I had to defrost the whole bag, I had to make a very large fish pie. To my fish above I also needed the following:-

  • A bag of fresh spinach ( about 200 grams but more is OK as well, I wish I had used more)
  • A leek finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery chopped
  • An onion finely sliced
  • At least 2 cloves of garlic chopped or crushed
  • At least 4 tsp of curry powder
  • 400 mls cream
  • 4 Oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 hard boiled eggs quartered or chopped
  • Juice of a lemon
  • A handful of freshly chopped coriander
  • Salt and pepper

For the topping

  • 100 mls milk or cream
  • +/- 1 kilo of potatoes depending how thick you want your topping to be,
  • 100 grms unsalted butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Salt and pepper.

Start by making the topping which is basically mashed potatoes. As usual I cook mine in the Microwave, peel after cooking and put through a potato ricer. Using a river makes for a fine mash, but don’t rush out and by one, mashing with a fork is fine, just giving a more rustic mashed potato. Once mashed heat the milk/ cream. Mix the potato with the egg yolks and butter, pour on the milk to mash a stiffish mashed potato topping. Too soft equals too sloppy for the pie, too stiff equals too difficult to spread over the pie. So a bit like Goldilocks, it needs to be Just Right!

Cook the spinach, I buy ready washed spinach ( lazy I know) as then I can just pop the bag as it is into the microwave and zap for two minutes, pop open the bag, remove spinach and drain in some paper towel, it will not be very wet anyway.

Now I always precook my fish. I dip bits in flour and sauté them and drain on paper towel. After that sauté the vegetables, along with the spices, garlic etc, pour in the cream, bring to the boil, add the cheese and lemon juice. Remove from heat. Put the fish into an oven proof dish, top with the spinach and sauce and then the mashed potatoes.

Bake at 180c ( fan) 200c for about 20 minutes until the topping is golden brown and bubbling.

Now as you can see from my photograph, that nis a big fish pie! Never mind, once cold I cut it into man size portions, freeze, vacuum pack and back into the freezer!

Guess what Himself will be having for dinner !

Les Merveilleux and Cramiques

I could have sworn that it was just last September when I decamped to Les Hauts de France, with my eldest daughter, youngest grandson and one of my dearest friends. But no, it was September 2019. My, how time flies when you are having fun! For a huge part of that we have spent confined to Barracks, or in other words, LOCKDOWN 1, 2 and 3!

Whilst on our Jolly ( #1 daughter, grandson and I were actually working, Suzette , she freshly arrived from Texas, along for the ride but ended up being the film crews #1 mate) . I digress, our first port of call was to old city of Lille, which more or less straddles France and Belgium. I say more or less, it is in Northern France but many Belgians make the daily trip across the border to work. We had a tour of the town in a Deux Chevaux and a good wander. We passed a shop, where the queue was around the corner and down the street. Our curiosity peeked, we returned on Sunday morning to check it out. They sold but two items, Les Merveilleux in ( 5 flavours) and Cramiques in three, (and maybe a croissant or two. )We felt we knew the Cramiques , a cross between a Brioche and a sweet roll, very popular in Belgium for breakfast ( and we had lived in Brussels for 13 years and thought we knew, all that was needed to know), but Les Merveilleux, we hadn’t a clue. So some were purchased and stashed in the boot of the car for future eating.

Unbeknownst to us, they were predominantly CREAM! And so after a day with the car sitting in warm sunshine, they were no longer Merveilleux, but Abominable! And inedible! Ah well such is life.

However, my friend and I discovered that there is such a shop in London Les Merveilleux de Fred in South Kensington. A visit was required and some were bought. Certainly, in Lille, they make them non stop and all are sold. Not sure about London as, they certainly are not cheap, £ 3.40 each, but then again, South Kensington is a French enclave.

The flavours are

:- Incroyable……. Speculoos , cream and white chocolate

:- Impensable…….Coffee cream and coffee crystals

:-Merveilleux……..Cream and chocolate shavings

: Manifique…………Praline Cream with almonds and caramelised hazelnuts

:- Sans Culottes……Caramel Cream and crystallised meringue

:-Excentrique……… Cherry Cream and crystallised meringue

All of them are Cream, Cream and more Cream ! But Yummy.

The other delights are the Cramiques , Fred makes them, Plain, Chocolate and then Raisins . All of them have a sugar , which to my mind is very Belgian, but not just any sugar, but Pearl sugar. Pearl sugar is very common in Belgium and is always used in their famous Gaufres de Liège, which are wonderful, served hot with lumps of molten sugar !

I have yet to try making Les Merveilleux but have made the Cramiques, which thanks to my mini bread machine, (which did the kneading for me), worked very well.

Too much bread leftover in your house? Did you know that bread and bread products freeze very well? No room in your freezer and hat,e to throw away bread, then help is at hand.

New Orleans Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce.

This is a great way of using up stale bread and the plus point is that it also freezes well, even with the sauce on top. Traditionally made with stale french bread but any bread will suffice. The quantities are very much whatever you have. I used 6 bagels and half a baguette. Using a grater on a food processor, crumb the bread. To this add 3 beaten eggs, 500 mls cream ( or milk), 100 grms sugar. Then you can add any of the following, a cup of chopped apples, chopped dates, chopped soft dried apricots, raisins or sultanas. Mix all together and make sure that all of the bread is soaked. If not add some more milk.

Grease a loaf pan, pour in the mixture and bake at 180 C ,160C ( fan) for about 45 minutes until golden brown and form. Leave to cool, slice and serve with whiskey sauce.

For the sauce, melt 250 grms butter on the stove top along with 100 grms sugar and 1/2 cup whiskey ( cheap will do). Beat an egg until it is well mixed and when the sugar has melted beat in the egg into the mixture. If by any chance it should curdle whisk well preferably by an electric whisk, it should be fine.

Slice the pudding and pour over some of the sauce. To freeze, slice and place on a baking tray, pour over the sauce and freeze the lot. When frozen, warp individually, to use, just place the pudding in a bowl, leave to defrost and pop into a microwave for about a minute to serve hot.

Preserved Lemons

This week has seen us visiting Richmond Park and Kew Gardens. Richmond Park can get very busy, especially now as we are all still confined to quarters, hence we head out early around 7 am. This week saw a marked difference in traffic volumes as schools went back the day before and the volume of traffic certainly increased.

We walked a new route and the trees were budding and lucky yesterday again to see a herd of deer ( Richmond Park is home to about 600 ). We also learnt about the hillocks which abound. They are in fact Ant Hills, home to the Yellow Meadow Ant. Some of the hills are at least a hundred years old and unfortunately because half of London has been walking in the park, many have been damaged!

We also explored again, Kew Gardens or it’s correct name of Royal Botanical Gardens Kew. We have been so many times during this lockdown and yet we still find areas that are new to us. Spring time here is magnificent and the kitchen garden area along with the medicinal area just beginning to spring to life.

Himself has been at work in the kitchen and to great success. He made Chicken Tagine with preserved lemons and olives. He used a cast iron casserole ( I don’t have a tagine, and I have an Induction Hob, so a tagine wouldn’t work anyway)

I supported various farmers in Spain this past year, it was a crowd farming effort-supporting small independent producers. I had wonderful Olive oil, to die for Mangoes, creamy unblemished avocados and 5 kilos of Devine unwaxed lemons! I immediately contacted my dear friend Jean who has in the past given me a jar of her home grown preserved lemons, and asked what to do with my haul of lemons! Preserve them in salt was the answer, which I promptly did.

For 4 people you will need:-

  • 250 mls, chicken stock
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 3 large onions chopped
  • 3cloves ( or more to taste) finely chopped
  • 1tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • A tsp each of ground ginger and ground cumin
  • 3large or 6 small preserved lemons
  • Handful of olives, we used bald ( as that is what we had in store)
  • A cup each of chopped coriander and chopped parsley.
  • 4-6 boneless chicken breasts
  1. Heat the oil in the casserole and sauté the onions are soft but not browned
  2. Add the ginger and garlic and then the chicken
  3. Add the pepper and lemons and then the stock.
  4. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is falling apart.
  5. Add the olives and herbs.
  6. Serve with new potatoes and crusty bread.

Be very careful the lemons are preserved in salt and DO NOT ADD EXTRA SALT, taste the tagine and if you think it too salty add some potatoes to it and let them cook until soft. They will absorb some of the salt, but discard them afterwards as they too will be salty!

Preserved Lemons can be bought in Waitrose ( they have the choice of 1) but even better Amazon has a selection of at least 6).

Not more Ice Cream ?

Well, yes, in a word. I have been collecting recipes or ideas and stick them into my Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream book. What ever the recipe says, I basically ignore it. It is just the idea that I am after. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream base is the way forward, it needs no cooking.

This week saw me making Salted Caramel Ice Cream. To be honest with you, Himself will eat almost any type of Ice Cream and if it is from Baskin Robbins, then usually the more lurid the better. Case in point, Blue Raspberry, Pink Raspberry, or Wild and Reckless! Not for me!

Salted caramel ice cream is easy to make, maybe a little more time consuming than my previous Ice Creams, but still very easy.

For the Ice Cream Base you will need:-

  • 500 mls thick cream
  • 500 mls plain full fat yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs.

To make the base, whisk the eggs together until thick and fluffy. Add the sugar. Add the cream and the yoghurt and mix well together. As always I do this all in a food processor ( it saves on washing up). Put to freeze, either in an ice cream machine or simply in the freezer.

To make the salted caramel bit :-

  • 220 grms dark brown sugar
  • 300 mls pouring cream
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 30 grms unsalted butter
  • 1tsp salt

Put all of the above into a pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer and let it bubble for 4-5 minutes, it will become thicker.

Leave to cool and then put it in a container and refrigerate until the ice cream is almost set. If you add it before the ice cream is set, it will still taste very good, but will just be amalgamated into the general setting ice cream ( believe me, I did just that ) so waiting until the ice cream is practically set, you will get a ripple effect.

Serve with some chopped nuts or chocolate sprinkles, a swoop of whipped cream, if you feel a need for more cream, or eat straight out of the box !

I’ve also made more gnocchi, this time using sweet potatoes. I think on balance I prefer the ones made with normal potatoes, but really not bad.

My basic recipe remains the same:-

  • About a kilo of potatoes
  • 125 grms plain flour
  • 150 grams grated parmesan
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • Salt to taste.

Simply, peel and boil the potatoes, until soft, but not falling apart. Leave until cool enough to handle, and put through a potato ricer, or sieve. Mix in the eggs, cheese and salt, mix thoroughly..

Lay a sheet of cling film on the counter top and put a length of gnocchi mixture, ( like a long thin sausage) roll up and tie each end with string. In a large pan boil some water and drop in the ” sausages ” ( make sure they are submerged) and boil for about 10 minutes . Remove and pop them into a bowl with cold water.

When cooled, remove the cling film, cut into slices about 1/2″ or so, dip each in flour and sauté in hot butter until golden brown on each side. Drain on paper . Here I wait until they are cold and lay all of them flat on a tray and flat freeze. When frozen, I bag them ready to use, as an alternative to rice, pasta or even potatoes.I usually make multiples of the recipe.

The other thing that I am very much into making are Bagels! I have to admit I was a bit wary at first, as having tried to make them many years ago to disastrous results, I was reluctant to try again, but now, I think I have it cracked. Commercial bagels are cooked in Lye and water, but umm maybe not to do at home and the alternative seems to be very simply just add some baking soda to the boiling water! Seems to work !

Was it worth it ?

Where has this week gone? Honestly I haven’t a clue, but indeed it has gone. Mornings are brighter, evenings are lighter, and flowers and blossom are blooming! Spring is almost here!

I feel that The Sunday Times has been spying on me. Last week there was an article on flavoured butters ( and how I love flavoured butters) and this weeks here was something else, that I thought” Wait a moment” I’ve been doing that for years!

This week has seen a lot of RECYCLING and by that I mean food! It has to be obvious, it is impossible to make just one meat pie or beef stroganoff or kedgeree or Peruvian beef or ?

The extra has always been portioned, frozen, vacuumed packed, labelled and stored away in the recycling freezer drawer! Once upon a time when Himself was working and travelling every week and I traveled almost as much and sometimes more than him, the freezer had magnetic labels with notes written on, saying what was available for dinner.

Flavoured butters, I have been using some of them for years, mainly Garlic butter, Garlic and Parsley butter and Anchovy Butter. Chefs make several butters, which they make into a roll, wrap in cling film, and freeze ( or refrigerate), slice off a bit as needed. Me on the other hand, make my butters and freeze them in Ice Cube trays, pop into a plastic bag and freeze.

I have been buying Trout from Chalk Stream now for the almost a year and is the easiest thing to cook for dinner and SO enhanced with Anchovy Butter. Snails, with Garlic Butter, Garlic Bread, Maple and Cinnamon, with Pancakes, Sriracha Lime and Coriander, Harissa Butter, Horseradish and Pepper, Blue Cheese butter, Chimcichurri used on meats and fish or vegetables and the crème de la crème is Marmite Butter ( now available in Marks and Spencer! The list is endless, I also make my ginger and garlic mix and freeze in the ice cubes, along with my fresh yeast, my ice cube trays get used a lot.

This weekend we tried another Gourmet Take A Way. This time from a company called Dispatch. The service was excellent, delivery on time in all recyclable packaging.

We chose this meal from St. John, a restaurant in central London that was founded in 1993. We have eaten there just the once. The starter was Bone Marrow and is so easy to cook and is delicious, we Love It. The Main course was Braised Duck Legs served with carrots and Aioli and the Pièce de resistance (NOT) was the dessert, and Eccles Cake with a bit of cheese. They do to be honest actually serve the Eccles Cake at their restaurant, but I have to say it looked very sad. And what is more, there was just One Eccles Cake and one sliver of Cheese. Ok, maybe we didn’t need more but to serve it elegantly, put on a pretty plate in the middle of us along with the cheese.

Himself gave the meal a mere 6/10 the Photo shows, three bones on the plate, we had two, three carrots and we had two. The duck was lovely but found that the Aioli superfluous, it actually says in the instructions add a DOLLOP, which we did, but the sauce was nice without it.

The really disappointing thing was that St. John never replied to my question ” Has there been a mistake with just the one Eccles Cake?”

Would we have another meal, Yes, Dispatch offers menus from several and varied restaurants, so we have at least another month to go, so watch this space.