Tag Archives: fish

Fish pie

It’s cold. It’s too cold to get on the bike without three layers of lycra and wool. Guilt is setting in, along with the fear that in less than six months a bunch of us will spend a week in the Alps then Pyrenees attempting to follow in the (very expensive) wheels of the big boys from the Tour. So what do I do? I make a fish pie. Obviously.

This is a recipe that my sister Nic shared with me many years ago and it’s a cracker, even if it did have a crap name:  “Luxury fish pie” (you have to say luxury in that Marks & Spencer’s ad voice but with the addition of a slight northern twang, otherwise it doesn’t work). Funnily enough, I think the luxury thing was a sign of the times – back in the early 90’s scallops and monkfish were still considered a little exotic – now (thankfully) they are commonplace, as they should be.. It just shows how much better we are at food than we were…

The other great thing about this pie is that it’s a chance to give your local fishmonger a little business – mine in Enfield is the real deal – an old boy who’s been there for decades and who is a pleasure to buy from – worlds apart from these Kensington & Chelsea boutique fish sellers who think it’s ok to charge the earth for an ammonious skate wing. It’s a great thing to support your local businesses, but I only really like to do it to when they’re not taking the piss..

Fish Pie

You can put pretty much anything in this pie – there are just three elements to it: Fishy stuff, a great sauce and a top. This time I used monkfish, skate cheeks (I was looking for cod cheeks, but this is what he had, and it worked really well), scallops, prawns and some salmon for colour. You simply skin and cut up the fish into bite sized chunks and put them in your dish. Like this:

For the topping, par-boil new potatoes for about 6 minutes and then plunge them into cold water. When they are cool enough to handle, grate them into a bowl (don’t worry about peeling them) and add a huge knob of butter, a generous handful of finely chopped capers and plenty of salt and pepper.

Now for the sauce – start with a simple roux – lots of melted butter and a couple of tablespoons of flour, then incorporating milk and mixing vigorously until you have a very thick sauce. Now add a glass of vermouth and double cream and let it cook and reduce. The sauce should be pretty thick as the liquid from the fish will thin it a little during cooking. Season the sauce and add a handful each of chopped parsley and dill along with a spoonful of dijon mustard. While you’re doing this, fry a very finely chopped onion (or leek) along with a little red chilli and once softened (don’t let it colour) add it to the sauce. Now pour the sauce over the fish and wiggle the bits about so that it’s well mixed together.

Place the potatoes in spoonfuls on the top of the pie, starting at the edges and working in. Pile it high and make sure there are plenty of edgy bits that will go crispy in the oven. Now just pop it in the oven at 180 degrees for 35 minutes. It’s really good with wilted spinach or just a hunk of really good bread. And a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet…

Fish and twitter

I’m in a twitter dilemma.

I’m having trouble deciding what I should and shouldn’t be saying through the new age loudhailer. There are schools of thought (@micycle) that insist twitter should be used solely as a professional tool and if you’ve got something to say of a personal nature, keep it to facebook (or to yourself if you’re a normal person who can allow an emotion to pass through your brain without a primal urge to share it with as many people as you can). There are others though – columnists, for example – who spend much of their day sharing personal thoughts and experiences with massive armies of loyal followers who they don’t know from Adam. I suppose that’s their job though, so they’re allowed to do that, right?

The thing is, however much I’d like to be, I am not a columnist. And I wouldn’t dare to suggest that my life holds any interest for anyone apart from the odd stalker (I know you’re out there) and my mother (I’m sure you’re out there, but you’re not reading this anymore it seems). My friends certainly don’t give a shit – in fact even the more progressive of them take every opportunity to take the piss out of me for “being a gay and writing a big gay food blog”. Perhaps new friends are in order…

The thing is, I was given very specific advice when I first kicked off this blog to not, under any circumstances, talk about myself. People are simply not interested. But surely I’m allowed to share my opinion about things that affect us all (like children, flying on Virgin, doing nothing untoward in Las Vegas, writing blogs, being recursive) even if that opinion is articulated in a roundabout, meandering sort of way, and never really gets to a substantive conclusion.

So, I think I’m going to bumble along on under the assumption that one or two people may just have a vague interest in my musings (you can comment on here if you think I’m deluded) and get down with @caitlynmoran and @alaindebotton (now there’s a guy who’s got something to say that’s worth reading). Sorry @micycle.

Of course, I have a more fundamental problem, which makes much the above musing somewhat moot. When I said one or two people, it wasn’t simply a figure of speech. It is my sad reality that I have a grand total of bugger-all followers on twitter. Anyone who knows me or who is interested in what I’ve got to say is already on facebook getting all my tweets in the form of status updates hot off the press thanks to the wonders of modern technology, so there’s no reason for them to inflate my rather miserable followership (should that be fellowship? I don’t think so – sounds a bit religious).

So how do I persuade complete strangers to come and find me and follow me? Why do I even care? Well, at the onset of the new year, and at the deranged direction of my sister, I set out a goal to try to get over 500 views on this blog in a single day before the year is out (along with write a book, a song, conquer everest, become chief exec of NewsCorp…), and I’m not going to do that with 32 followers. Not even I’m that deluded. So if you’re reading this and you’re one of the lucky ones with the twitter equivalent of a big nob (in case it’s unclear, that means you have lots of followers. and no it’s not sexist), then go on – do me a favour and retweet…

All that said, I think I’m ignoring the elephant in the room here – what has all this got to do with fish? Feck all as it appears…

So – to business – this is a brilliant starter – I do it all the time and now my pa seems to love it too (that’s father, not assistant by the way…)

Potted salmon

Take a couple of really good salmon fillets and place them in a saucepan submerged in olive oil. Heat the pan very carefully so that the fillets slowly poach (but don’t fry) in the oil. This will take less than 10 minutes, and you may want to turn them over during the process. After about ten minutes take the pan off the heat and set aside to cool down.

Now chop, fairly roughly a small pack of good, mildly smoked salmon – nothing too smokey.

Once the poached salmon has cooled a little, carefully peel off the skin with your fingers along with the unsightly brown flesh, and falke the good stuff into a bowl, along with the smoked salmon.

Now add the following to the bowl: two tablespoons of capers a couple of spring onions and a handful of cornichons all chopped finely, the juice of a lemon, two or three large tablespoons of soured cream, a large teaspoon of dijon mustard, a little finely chopped and seeded chilli (for warmth) a handful of chopped coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Mix it all and serve at room temperature in ramekins with melba toast or crusty bread. And it freezes really well if you make too much (which I recommend you do..)

And here’s a really good variation using mackerel (although I still prefer the salmon one):

Smoked Mackerel Pate

Take a whole smoked mackerel (or fillets if you must) and gently fry in butter, without letting it colour. Once cooked, flake it into a bowl with your fingers, making sure you remove all the bones and dark brown flesh. Add another knob of butter and a teaspoon of mustard along with a little finely chopped parsley and a couple of tablesspoons of soured cream and the juice of half a lemon. Then add either finely chopped spring oninions or chives, mix together, season carefully and serve in ramekins again with crusty bread.