Fish Pie, a hug in an oven dish

Fish Pie to me really is comfort food. Creamy sauce, chunks of beautiful flaky fish and fluffy, cheesy mashed potato. It’s not difficult to make, it just takes a little time. It’s a great prepare ahead dish if you bring it up to room temperature an hour or so before you want to cook it. We’ve had cold foggy days, gloriously sunshiny days…it’s so hard to know what to cook. This always seems to fit the bill though!

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You can keep it basic for a mid week family meal, or if you add scallops, prawns, capers and a mix of your favourite fish it really can be grand enough for entertaining. The  choice is yours, you don’t need to be rigid with the measurements…make it your own! I make my bechamel the easy, all-in-one way and use olive oil instead of butter, but do feel free to make it the more traditional way making a roux of flour and butter then gradually adding the milk if you prefer.

Ingredients (to serve 4 generously)

  • Approx 400g of mixed fish (I used cod, smoked haddock, salmon and prawns)
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • Approx 1kg floury potatoes, peeled and boiled until soft enough to mash
  • Olive oil (or butter to add to the mash plus about 100ml of milk)
  • 450ml of milk (full fat or semi skimmed)
  • A bay leaf and a few peppercorns
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • A cup of frozen peas or 2 cups of washed fresh spinach
  • About 2 tablespoons of grated cheese (I used cheddar)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: a tablespoon each of finely chopped parsley, capers and gherkins

Place the fish in the milk with the bay leaf and peppercorns and heat gently. Once bubbles appear on the surface of the milk, remove the fish with a slotted spoon  and set aside. Allow the milk to cool completely. This stage can be carried out the day before if it’s easier.

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Add the flour and olive oil to the cold milk and bring gently to a simmer, whisking as you do. The sauce will start to thicken. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes then remove from the heat. Break the fish into chunks then stir into the white sauce with the chopped egg and capers, gherkins and parsley if using. Now add the frozen peas (no need to defrost, they’ll cook in the oven)  or spinach and stir to mix in well. Season, taste and adjust if necessary.

Pour the  mixture into an ovenproof bowl (deep enough for a layer of mashed potato on top). Allow to cool down a little.

Mash the cooked potatoes while they are still hot, adding a generous slug of olive oil or a large knob of butter as you mash. When it’s free of lumps, whisk in the milk adding enough to give a soft, smooth purée that will hold its shape. Don’t use all the milk if it starts looking too wet, add extra if the potatoes are particularly dry.

Spoon (or pipe, if you’re that way inclined) the potato on top of the fish. Run a fork over it if you haven’t piped it as this will give you lots of lovely tiny peaks which will go brown and crunchy in the oven.

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Bake at 180° fan (190° regular oven) for 30 minutes then sprinkle the grated cheese over the potato and bake for a further 10 minutes until the pie is bubbling and browned.

Leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy the fish pie love and hopefully someone else will offer to do the washing up…

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Potato Topped Pizza and a Walk Up the Mountain

If, like me, you don’t fear the carbs (although realy I should), this is a tasty and economical pizza to feed a crowd. And then you take the crowd out for a walk to burn off the carbs!

Potato & Spring Onion Pizza (1)

Ingredients

  • One Quanity of Pizza Dough
  • About 2 cups of chopped tomatoes or your favourite pasta sauce
  • 1 large potato, boiled in its skin then peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 ball of mozzarella, chopped into bite sized chunks
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic
  • Half a cup of grated cheese (I used a mix of parmesan and emmental)
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tin anchovies in olive oil (optional) omit for a vegetarian version

Turn the oven onto the highest setting while you prepare the pizza.  Put the tin or tray you will be using into the oven to heat up

Roll out your dough to fit the tin and place it on some greaseproof or baking paper. Cover with the tomato sauce. Mix the potato, cheeses, spring onion and garlic together in a bowl and spread this mixture over the pizza. Lay the anchovies over the top and pour over any oil from the tin.

Slide the pizza onto the hot tray (with or without the baking paper) and bake for about 12-15 minutes until the cheese starts to brown and the pizza is crispy.

Hope you enjoy the walk, click on the photos to see them in more detail.

Little Piggies and Potato Cakes

Near our village in Spain is another village with a restarant run by a lovely lady called Belén. Belén means Bethlehem in English, so although a bit unusual for English speakers, her name is quite apt as we creep up towards the Christmas season. Sorry, I promised myself I wouldn’t mention the C word until well into December and it’s only the 2nd today.

Belén runs a good bar and restaurant with all the usual offerings plus a few slightly different ones. An item on her menu is called “Guarrito” which translated means “little wild boar”. I don’t know if this is a typical dish, we’ve certainly never seen it anywhere else, so of course had to order it. And once ordered, we loved it and often go back for a little tapas of this with a glass of wine. So, what is “guarrito”? It’s simply thick slices of jamón cooked in a little olive oil (and Belén serves them on fried bread which makes them extra naughty and extra nice).

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We always said that these little morsels would be fantastic with a fried egg and baked beans, in a Full English Breakfast style. Or as a supper dish. Or any time really. So of course, now we make guarrito at home in England until we can get back to visit Belén again.

To accompany the guarrito I was inspired by Frugal’s Gluten Free Potato Cakes. He uses gram (chick pea) flour instead of regular flour and I pretty much followed his recipe with the addition of some roasted red peppers.

Being the sort of Chica who always cooks army rations instead of regular sized portions, I still had a little mashed potato left the following day, so I made another potato cake to go with some grilled meat and salad.

Ingredients to serve 2

  • About a cup of mashed potato
  • One beaten egg
  • Half a roasted pepper
  • A tablespoon of crème fraiche
  • Salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together and then blend with a hand blender or mash thoroughly – the mixture will be quite runny. Don’t panic!

Using a heavy based frying pan, pour in a little oil and get it quite hot. Now pour in the potato mix and turn the heat down. Cook slowly for about 10-15 minutes until it starts to get crispy. If you’re feeling brave slide it out onto a plate and then flip it back into the pan to cook the other side in the same way. For the fainter hearted, pop it under the grill until it starts to brown a little then flip and continue to fry.

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Slide it out into a serving plate and enjoy your potato (pan) cake sliced into portions. Crispy on the outside, creamy soft in the middle. Now how economical and delicious is that?!

Sort of Saag Aloo

Yummy curry...

I love Indian food.  If I had to choose a favourite cuisine, I think Indian would be it.  We do have a few Indian restaurants not too far away from us (i.e. about half an hour´s drive) but I usually get my curry fix when I go to London.  I was lucky enough to live in a neighbourhood that was predominantly Indian and African, so I was spoilt for choice in wonderful ethnic restaurants.

Sometimes, however, my cravings get the better of me and I have to make curry at home. Big Man hasn´t ever really “had” the full curry experience, so doesn´t really understand my need for curry, but on the occasions I´ve made something  “currified”, he´s enjoyed it.

We currently have a lot of chard growing and usually eat it wilted with oil and lemon juice but I decided to substitute the spinach in a Saag Aloo (that´s a Spinach and Potato curry) for chard, and see how it worked.  Fortunately it was a perfect substitution and Big Man adored it.  I think he´s starting to become a curry monster like me!

Freshly picked but not yet cleaned

I lay no claims to the authenticity of the spices I use in relation to a real Indian Saag Aloo, but the combination worked well and had good spicy (but not too hot) flavour.

Ingredients used:

Smells wonderful even before cooking

3 teaspoons of Garam Masala mix (you can buy ready made or make your own). I used a mix bought over by a friend which a chef friend of hers makes up and I then grind as I need it.  I don´t know the exact mix but I picked out coriander seeds, curry leaves, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon and coriander.

1 or 2 teaspoons of hot chili powder (or use mild) according to taste

1 teaspoon of ground turmeric

Half a teaspoon of mustard seeds

Two medium potatoes (mine were ready cooked as it´s what I had in the fridge but you can use raw) cubed

About 3 cups of uncooked (or just wilted in its own steam), chopped spinach or chard, otherwise you can use frozen

About half a cup of chopped tomatoes

3 cloves of crushed garlic

Oil for frying (something with little flavour, not olive oil)

Salt

Lemon

Start by frying the potatoes until lightly browned then remove them from the pan and drain off most of the oil.

Fry your potatoes

Fry the spices until they start to release the most wonderful  smells and then add the garlic and fry until it softens.

Breathe deeply and enjoy the wonderful spicy scents

Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes then add your spinach or chard.

Add your spinach or chard to the tomato

Put a lid on the pan and simmer for another 5 minutes or so then add the potatoes.

Add salt, Indian food can take (and usually needs) a heavy hand with the salt, but use low sodium if you can´t use regular.

Simmer, uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated but all of the vegetables are coated in the tomato and spice sauce.

I like this served with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Can be served as a side dish or a main (vegetarian) dish with plain boiled basmati rice.  Now, where are my popadoms?!