Fish Pie

fish pie - cooked

I absolutely love fish pie.  In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s probably in my top 20.  Which may seem a little underwhelming, but if you think about it, there are so many wonderful things to eat that, until I really spend time deciding on my true top 20, it’s the best I can do.

Meanwhile, we have also been doing some baking today as it is Mollie’s birthday. The wee boy decided, as her present, that she would probably like some chocolate buns.   As Mollie is a hand puppet she didn’t really get a say in the matter, but when you’re five, the question as to whether something is actually alive or not, is irrelevant.  Mollie is his friend and that’s good enough for me.  We even went as far as putting candles on the cakes, lighting them, and singing her ‘happy birthday’. Glorious.

However, this has been my greatest challenge yet in the no sugar stakes, and I have to admit to lapsing without thought, twice.  Firstly, I licked my fingers which were covered in raw cake mixture, and then, later on, I inadvertently popped a piece that had fallen off the cooling rack, into my mouth.  No, truly, it was an accident.  Bloody lovely though.

Anyway, back to the fish pie.  I always put smoked fish in with white fish and some salmon.  I like the combination.  But to be honest, the beauty of fish pie is that you can put whatever fish takes your fancy in there.  I make a white sauce, which consists of cornflour, salt, pepper, milk and butter.  Occasionally, if I have it in, I put a wee bit of anchovy paste in and leave out the salt, and sometimes, like today, I replace some milk with cream, just because it needed using up.

After making the sauce, ensuring it has quite a thick consistency, I add the fish, cut up with scissors.  Make sure not to make the chunks too small as they will disintegrate.  Now then, if you wish, a little chopped parsley is a lovely compliment to fish, but I didn’t have any of that around so this time, omitted it.

Put the fish and sauce into a dish.

Make some mashed potato, place on top, fiddle about with a fork to make a pretty pattern, and place in the oven, gas mark 5 for around 45 minutes.

Take out and let it all sit in itself for a few minutes.  I tend to serve it with peas as I’m a creature of habit, but anything green goes well.  Except green peppers, but I’m not a fan of the taste of those anyway.

I find fish pie so delicious I am always tempted to have seconds, but every time I do, I regret it within approximately ten minutes, as it is very, ‘catches you unaware’, filling.  As a consequence of this, we do have a very large amount of fish pie left, so if anyone fancies popping over for some, do feel free.

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Potatoes Dauphinoise

Dauphinoise

We haven’t really sat down to eat a big meal since Christmas Day, so I felt it was only fitting that at the start of the year I should make an effort but keep it in the comfort zone, as our winter hibernation is truly setting in.

Also, I am loathed to pop out and buy food when there is still a plethora of things still sitting in our fridge that need using up. Albeit most of them are pickled affairs.

Anyway, all of this led me to plump for something I love, but rarely do, as we don’t often have cream in the fridge.

I have occasionally tried to keep cream in the fridge as almost all the cookery programmes i have ever watched, always seem to refer to it as an essential. However, I found that as we don’t use cream on a daily basis, once the correct amount has been apportioned to whichever recipe required it, any left over cream just lingers forlornly, slowly frosting away with no particular place to go.

I am trying to rectify this situation, hence potatoes Dauphinoise.

Officially, this is a gratin recipe as the potatoes, although sliced, are completely cooked in the oven.  But I don’t think anyone’s too concerned about semantics in this particular instance.

Anyway, put your cream in a pan and add a clove of garlic per 100ml of liquid. Grind in some salt and pepper. Bring to a light simmer, and add the potatoes which have been thinly sliced, simmering for approximately 3 minutes.

The basic rule of thumb here is that you need double the amount of potatoes to cream.  And just to let you know, it doesn’t need to be all cream.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can use up all the cream you have and just top up with milk.  Or, if you prefer, go half and half.  It’s totally up to you.

Then, strain the potato slices into an oven proof dish, fish out the garlic cloves from the warmed cream before pouring over the top.

Cook in the middle of the oven, gas mark 5, for about an hour.  Longer if you prefer your spuds with a little more of a mush.

And it is at this juncture that I feel the need to point out the beauty of potatoes Dauphinoise.  It is a wonderfully diverse dish that you can tweak to your heart’s content.  You can add rosemary, thyme, or any other herb you love, to the cream mixture. You can grate cheese on the top (Gruyere is the cheese most oft mentioned but anything light and nutty will taste great), you can even, if you’re really thinking of living on the edge, add eggs to the creamy affair.

I will just add a word of garlic caution here.  I find infusing the cream with garlic is enough to compliment the other flavours in the dish.  Those of you who cannot get enough of the garlic flavour, may wish to grate, crush or chop your garlic into the cream and leave it there.  If so, I suggest one clove per 250ml of liquid will suffice.

Whichever way you decide to cook your potatoes, they always taste divine, and although traditionally they were cooked to compliment fish, I like to throw caution to the wind and cook them to compliment whatever I fancy, or even, sometimes, just eat them on their own.

One of the most delicious classic comfort foods around.  Enjoy.

Mini Fritattas

Vegetable fritatas

Well hello again.

Having had the most wonderful sojourn, I’m back.

The thing about going away is that it takes about three days to relax into your holiday and realise that the constraints of places to be and appointments to keep, just don’t apply.  It is only then that you completely fall in love with the holiday experience and truly allow your mind to begin expanding into possibilities.

And so it was with us.  Although totally mesmerised by the area where we were from the get go, it wasn’t really until we’d had a couple of sleeps that we began to relish everything around us.  There are always many tales of delight and wonder when you are surrounded by exactly what you need, but I won’t bore you with them all.  I have never had much patience for other people’s holiday/wedding/whatever photos, and, as I have got older have become brave enough to limit the amount I am prepared to look at – normally around ten does it for me.  I want a flavour, not the whole experience.

So it is with this ethos in mind that I will share just one story with you.

We were on a vast expanse of beach, walking towards the sea over a fairly dune like terrain when the wee boy turned to me and said,

‘Look mummy, the mermaids have been and left their tail marks in the sand’

I know, delightful.

Today’s little number is mini roast vegetable frittatas.  They are pretty simple to make, but just take time.  So when the recipe says slice 4 aubergines and 2 courgettes, place on a baking tray, brush with the warm garlic and onion infused oil and place in the oven to cook, 10 minutes on both sides, what they don’t realise is that my oven is small and therefore I have to go through this process around 5 times before all the vegetables are done.

However, eventually, I finish baking the vegetable marathon and slice them and the peppers into a bowl with chopped mint, basil, salt and pepper.

The eggs, cream, nutmeg and parmesan are whisked then the whole thing is ready to be assembled and cooked.

Tell you what, they are delicious.

Strawberry and Almond crumble

photo (53)

Well I was going to write about my infamous chocolate slices today, and rant about the use of the word tiffin, but I have found myself delightfully distracted by stumbling across Nigella’s recipe of the day on twitter.

As you may or may not be aware, I do have a huge amount of respect for Nigella. Not because of her television programmes, her sultry looks to camera, or her seemingly glamorous lifestyle.  In fact none of the typical love her or loathe her arguments cross my mind for more than a second.  The reason why I think Nigella is fabulous, is that in spite of all the heartache she has suffered over the years, her passion for food remains.  And her honest passion is just so obvious, as any lover will testify.

Therefore, it is to this end that I follow Nigella on twitter.  Now for me twitter, facebook and the other social media forums, are something that I dip in and out of. But with twitter I am especially drawn to the notion that you can ‘pop in’ for literally seconds, and get a snapshot of what those you follow are thinking.  Which gives me endless amusement and knowledge.

So today, when I dropped in for a few seconds to see what was happening on twitter, Nigella had posted strawberry and almond crumble, to which my mind said, ‘ah ha, we have some strawberries that we didn’t eat yesterday, I’ll use them’.  Of course, when I went to check the weight of the strawberries, (you need 500g, hulled), to see if I needed to buy more, the box I had were festering in the vegetable rack, oozing a red liquid which even to me, looked unpalatable.

And so it was, that I had to trundle off to the supermarket and buy more strawberries, and some almonds, and actually almost all the ingredients, which was not my intention but once I have the idea in my head, tell you what, there’s not much that stops me…  Barring lack of money, time, or just forgetting what I went for.

Having gathered all the ingredients together, I made the crumble which I have to say is extremely easy, and popped it in the oven.  Now, taking into consideration that my oven doesn’t always understand what it has been designed to do, I checked on the crumble regularly to make sure it didn’t come out half burnt, and did exactly as instructed i.e. left it out for ten minutes before serving.

The verdict?  We all agreed it was sweet, indulgent and absolutely delicious.

I’ll definitely be slotting this recipe into my repertoire.  Thank-you, once again, Nigella.

http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/strawberry-and-almond-crumble

Chocolate Cake

Image

 

Ah, Sunday.  I love lazy day Sundays.  It’s the only day when I feel I can genuinely do very little and not feel the slightest bit guilty.  And today is one of those days.  A day when we have done nothing in particular except make chocolate cake.

There were two requests.  One for fresh cream in between the layers, the other for strawberries on top.  I can do that.

So, we start with the usual, creaming butter and castor sugar, only to find that we don’t have enough castor sugar.  In fact, we only have soft brown sugar.  So that’s what we make it with.  Then in go the eggs, shortly followed by the self raising flour, cocoa and baking powder, all sieved in, until it looks all sumptuous, pale brown and gooey.  But as I’m looking at it, I’m thinking it could do with a little more moisture, so we add a couple of splashes of double cream.

Now we all know as a child there was nothing more exciting when baking, than being allowed to quality control every stage of the proceedings, followed by what we used to call licking out the bowl, although we always did it with a spoon.  And so it is with my beautiful assistant, aged 4.  Each step has a small finger dipped into it and devoured with relish.

Eventually the mixture is poured into the tins, levelled off, and popped into a warm oven.

We wait. And wait. And wait.

Thirty minutes go by, and I feel brave enough to open the oven door.  A gentle push in the centre of the cake, and back it springs.  It’s ready to be released from it’s cosy cage.  So far so good.  Imagine our surprise, therefore, when on taking the cake tins out of the oven, the cakes have risen to resemble ski slopes.  How did that happen?

It reminds me of the time when we realised our last oven had eventually given up the ghost.  I had made some scones for afternoon tea, and popped them into the aforementioned oven.  Twenty minutes later, they were still lounging around on the baking tray with not an inkling of being baked.  I turned up the temperature ever so slightly, and left them for another twenty minutes.  Nothing.  In fact, they eventually ended up staying in the oven all night and still, nothing.  Which is when it occurred to me that the oven may indeed, not be working to full capacity.  Or, in truth, at all.

Back to the chocolate cake.  We take the ski slopes out of the tins, and leave them to cool.  Meanwhile, I thought I would just a have a quick surf on the internet to see how other people tackled fresh cream in cakes.  And I couldn’t find anywhere that just whipped the cream and put it in.  Everything seems to involve icing sugar and other fancy methods.  So I chose to ignore those recipes and just whipped the cream, popped it in between and atop of the cake, chopped up the strawberries, and threw then on top with my take of a ‘television chef’ flourish.

As a nod to my internet searching, I did sieve a small amount of icing sugar over the top of the strawberries and cream.  Well, it would be rude not to.

Delicious.