Sunday, 31st January 2021 – Recipes (The Ultimate Fish Pie; Slow-Cooked Fish and Shellfish Stew with Saffron and Star Anise)
At the start of the month it was announced that we could cook from any of the books that have been the previous books of the month. As a result I just kept right on going with “The Pie Room”, by Calum Franklin, because I didn’t feel I’d quite finished with it. I wanted to try the jacket potato recipe, which was described, quite correctly, as Rarebit Baked Potatoes. Oh. My. God. This has to be the ultimate jacket potato recipe – I probably won’t do it too often, because the sheer calorie count must be terrifying, but it can be an occasional fabulously rich treat, probably on a day when I’ve had a long run or otherwise been on my feet for most of the day. They are very easy to do, and just envelop you in a big hug. Utterly gorgeous and very indulgent!
Given the success of the baked potatoes, I stuck with the sides section of the book and tried out the Hasselback potatoes next. Again, these were hugely successful and, although I forgot to take a photo of then, they were very, very tasty. I shall probably make that my “go to” Hasselback recipe from now on though again it’s probably best not to do them too often.
Later in the month I fancied a change of book, and decided it was time to test run “Moorish” by Ben Tish, which I bought quite a while after it was the book of the month. It was on offer at some point, so I bought it mostly on the strength of what I’d seen on the #TBT posts on the club pages. I was very glad I did. I decided to explore the slow cooked section, and so we began the weekend with the Slow-Cooked Fish and Shellfish Stew with Saffron and Star Anise. I used dried parsley as I didn’t have any fresh, and I used a bag of mixed frozen seafood courtesy of Waitrose, along with king prawns, some cod that I needed to skin myself, and some ready cooked clams because we’re not well supplied with fishmongers in these parts. The end result was delicious the first night and even better as leftovers once it had been given time to mature further.
I served it with the fougasse recipe in the book as suggested, and with the alioli. The latter was a failure, probably because I was too impatient and tried to make it too quickly. It didn’t matter too much because we loved the stew and the bread. I need to work on the alioli and will do so when I get the chance.
The same weekend we ate our way though another “Moorish” recipe, this time the braised oxtail with chorizo, red wine and soffritto. To be fair, I started cooking it the day before because I wanted to give it as much of a chance to develop as possible to allow the flavours to deepen and open out. I gave it the full 3.5 hours in the oven on the first day, and then on the day we ate it a further 2 hours on top of the hob at a low, gentle simmer, and the end result was amazing.
We had it with the Hasselback potatoes, and it was a very satisfying dish all round. It’s easy to make, though you do need to take your time, and the meat simply melted off the bones. I’ll certainly add this to my list of regular choices. If it’s January and dark and miserable outside, this sort of thing is just what you need.
I ended the month by once again falling back on “The Pie Room” and made the ultimate fish pie for Saturday night’s dinner. It is indeed splendidly rich and decadent, though I do have a couple of observations, and things I might do differently next time.
When you are cooking the roux, you really, really do need a balloon whisk to ensure it won’t stick to the sides of your pan because you are cooking it for 8 minutes before you get to add the milk and cream mix. I cheated slightly and added a spoonful of the milk/cream mix after about two minutes, and then twice more during the cooking time just to keep it moving and stop my carpal tunnel syndrome flaring up even worse than it currently is! It was worth the pain though.
Next time I shall add some freshly ground black pepper to the mix and will likely put double the mustard into the sauce to give it a bit more punch. I will also probably double the grated cheese on the top…
I used sweetcorn instead of peas (because Lynne’s loathing of peas is well known) and that worked very well. Two thirds of the pie ended up in a foil container in the freezer for another time – when we can finally have guests again – and we still struggled to finish the other third. It’s substantial, delicious, and I’ll be doing it again.
The Ultimate Fish Pie
Time: Hands-on – 45 min. Simmering time – 20 min, oven time – 30-40 min
For the filling:
- 500ml whole milk
- 300ml double cream
- 300g sustainable skinless, boneless cod fillets, cut into 2.5cm dice
- 200g sustainable skinless, boneless salmon fillet, cut into 2.5cm dice
- 200g sustainable skinless, boneless smoked haddock fillet, cut into 2.5cm dice
- 150g sustainable peeled raw tiger prawns
- 60g butter
- 60g plain flour
- 300g frozen peas, thawed
- 30g capers
- 30g fresh chives, finely chopped
- 30g fresh flatleaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 3⁄4 tsp salt
- 50g cheddar, grated
For the potato topping:
- 1.2kg King Edward potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 200ml whole milk
- 100ml double cream
- 60g butter
- 2 medium free-range egg yolks, beaten
- 3⁄4 tsp salt
- Deep ovenproof dish, about 30cm x 20cm x 5cm
- To make the topping, put the potatoes in a pan and add enough salted water to just cover them. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Drain and allow to steam dry for a few minutes in a colander set over the hot pan.
- Add the 200ml milk, 100ml double cream and 60g butter to the pan, then mash the potatoes until smooth. Mix in the egg yolks and salt, then set aside.
- Make the filling. Pour the milk and cream into a medium pan and bring to a simmer. Drop the diced fish and peeled prawns into the simmering liquid and poach for 2 minutes. Drain the fish, reserving the poaching liquid; set both aside.
- Wipe out the pan and add the butter, bring it to a bubble over a medium heat, then whisk in the flour. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 8 minutes, whisking continuously. Gradually add half the reserved poaching liquid and bring the mixture back to a simmer, whisking continuously to prevent lumps forming. Add the remaining poaching liquid and cook until thick and smooth. Mix in the peas, capers, chives, parsley, mustard and salt.
- Return the drained fish to the pan and lightly fold into the sauce, being careful not to break it up. Spoon the mixture into a deep ovenproof dish and level it (see Make Ahead).
- Spread the mash topping over the pie mixture, taking it right to the edges of the dish, then ruffle the top with a fork to create texture. Scatter the grated cheese evenly over the surface of the pie.
- Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/ gas 6. Put the dish on a large baking sheet in the hot oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling up at the sides and the potato topping has a crisp golden crust.
You can allow the elements to cool, then assemble the pie up to a day ahead. You can freeze leftovers for up to a month; defrost fully before reheating thoroughly.
Slow-Cooked Fish and Shellfish Stew with Saffron and Star Anise
Time: 60 minutes, give or take
- Olive oil
- A quarter of a butternut squash, peeled and grated
- 1 large celery stick, diced
- 3 shallots, diced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- A pinch of saffron threads
- ½ tsp coriander seeds, crushed
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 75ml brandy
- 200ml white wine
- 1.5 litres fish stock
- 400g vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 150g fresh clams, well washed
- 150g fresh rope-grown mussels (the smaller the better), washed and beards removed
- 8 large raw tiger or king prawns
- 500g skinless cod fillet (or other firm white fish), diced
- 150g prepared and cleaned baby squid with tentacles, roughly chopped
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Heat a large saucepan over a high heat and add a glug of olive oil followed by the vegetables, spices and tomato puree. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until the vegetables have browned and started to soften.
- Pour in the brandy and carefully set it alight. When the flames die down, add the wine and bring to the boil. Reduce for a few minutes before adding the stock and tomatoes. Turn down the heat to low and simmer gently for 1 hour or until rich and thickened, stirring occasionally.
- Season to taste and add the clams, mussels and prawns. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the cod and squid. Cook for a further 2 minutes. Squeeze in some lemon juice and add the parsley. Remove from the heat and leave the stew to rest for a few minutes before dividing the seafood among bowls and spooning over the rich sauce. Serve with warm focaccia spread with aïoli.