Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sharin' the fish pie love

My parents went for a wine-tasting session with Uncle Mike tonight (one of my parents’ oldest friends, he of steak and kidney pie fame), and I offered to cook for them afterwards.

I emailed him a couple of days ago...

Subject: Wine tasting and Fish Pie

Hi Uncle Mike,
Dad tells me that you and my parents are going to a wine tasting on Tuesday.
Unfortunately I can't attend (university, you see), but if you're free, would you like to come over for dinner afterwards? I was thinking of making a fish pie and possibly a crumble.

He replied the next day…

Yes, I would love to partake.
Helen says that like you she will not be going to the wine tasting
But wonders if she is asked to the fish pie and crumble tasting?

Sweet, Aunty Helen wanted to come over for my pie too. She must have liked my steak and kidney pie when she ate it.

123. Blakean Fish Pie (Dinner)
124. Rhubarb Crumble
with custard, damn straight (Basics etc.)

Look at this menu, all about reverting to Uncle Mike’s English childhood. I certainly didn’t have one!

I was excited about making this fish pie, because I tasted fish pie (Nigella’s Fish and Porcini) for the first time in June, and absolutely loved it.

“Blakean” because of its yellow interior (it’s a literary reference, apparently), the pie has three elements – seafood, a white sauce tinted yellow with saffron, and a mashed potato topping. Nigella says to use salmon, prawns, cod and haddock. I used salmon, prawns, flake and dory (all from the supermarket). I figured that once they were drowned in white sauce and covered with potato, it really wouldn’t matter what fish you used.

To begin, I made the crumble topping and stashed it in the freezer. Then I started the fish pie - boiling the potatoes for the topping. Whilst they were cooking, I poached the fish in Noilly Prat, carrot, water and a bouquet garni, then made a white sauce using flour, butter and the drained poaching liquid mixed with cream. I used random proportions of double cream, single cream and water to get up to the required 450ml mark. And I finally got to break open my packet of Italian 00 flour, (a.k.a. farina tipo “00”).

And on a random note, I remember seeing a commis chef at my old work making a white sauce once. She sucked balls, it was all lumpy and feral. To make conversation, I asked her what she was making, and she very patronizingly explained to me that it was “called a roux” to make a “white sauce, do you know what is a white sauce?”. HRMPH. As if I didn’t know! She was a qualified chef, and her white sauce looked like vomit. I know she had a million things to make at once, and in very little time, but a professional chef really should be able to handle pressure. (You may think me a bitch, but do we remember how crap my old job was??)

Anyway, here’s my smooth white sauce. I made it, relaxed, in the peace and quiet of my own kitchen, away from screaming chefs.

White sauce

Add a generous pinch of saffron powder ($14.70 for 2 grams) and it becomes…

Blakean sauce - How sunnily cheerful!

After doing this I mashed up the now-cooked potatoes and made the custard to go with dessert.

I had started cooking, leisurely, in the afternoon, with the expectation that my dad would call me when the wine tasting finished. This way I’d have enough time to whack the pie in the oven, and have it ready when they arrived home. Well, at seven o’clock, on the dot, with no prior warning, three wine-soused adults rocked up to my house whilst I still had all my pie parts sitting in random pots around the kitchen. ARGH! I’d almost had enough time to recover when Aunty Helen arrived too. (Breathe Sarah, breathe!)

So, as I rapidly put the seafood, the sauce and the potatoes in the dish, and chucked the pie in the oven. I then gave them a bottle of chardonnay, and poured myself a glass as well. Luckily, no-one was rushed or super-hungry, so it was all good.

And 34 minutes later…

Fish pie

After pulling out the fish pie, I chucked the crumble in. (The fruit had been cut up last night.)

Rhubarb – with light muscovado and vanilla sugars, and orange zest

Pre-oven crumble

Ok, so with the crumble in the oven, we could relax and get back to my fish pie…

Golden yellow

Peas and a generous serve of fish pie. Nothing better. (Except if you add ketchup - heaven!)

Like the fish and porcini pie, this one is fab too. It’s not strongly flavoured, (I would have preferred a fishier taste, actually) so be prepared to add quite a bit of salt.

Aunty Helen: Your mashed potato looks wonderful. What's the secret, lots of butter?
Me: Yes.

And a little bit after dinner was finished, the crumble was ready.

Cooked crumble

Served with my custard (yeah baby, yeah), it was fabulous. Cold custard + hot crumble = dessert heaven. I love making custard now. I don't even need the recipe any more!

The crumble tasted great - the rhubarb was fruitily fragrant, and the crumble topping was light and crumbly (duh). The only problem was that some of the thicker rhubarb pieces weren't cooked fully!! How annoying! Like the recipe says to do, I'd cut the rhubarb into 5cm pieces, but I should have cut them lengthways as well. Ah well... we just avoided all the hard pieces when scooping it out and took all the good and mushy ones.

Uncle Mike's – the man obviously loves custard

Uncle Mike (that's Aunty Helen's shoulder in the background)

Even though it's Spring, the weather was freezing today, like 16 degrees, so this menu was very appropriate.

Oh God, this post took me sooo much longer than I expected. Well, there’s a warning for you kiddies, don’t drink and blog.


Karen said...

ooo... yum, sarah! that pie looks SO good! and crumble with custard...mmm...

glad you've totally gotten over your custard phobia...i've yet to get there!


Anonymous said...

Sarah, I haven't left a comment for ages, but read everything.
Well done you for managing so well!!
The fish pie and crumble look great!

Anna x

Randi said...

Ive made that pie and I really enjoyed it. Saffron is 2.49CAD for 1 gram. I can't believe how expensive it is in Australia.