Tuesday, 6 February 2007

One Step Gourmet - Two Steps Retro

For someone who's just started his first week as a fine dining Head Chef (more later), I’ve been very retro lately when it comes to cooking at home. At lunchtime I'm supervising the preparation of black and green olive crusted, roasted salmon fillet with a basil emulsion and freshwater crayfish jus, but at night it's been baked ziti and my latest triumph - partly gluten-free fish pie.

You don't get much more 1970s than a good old pasta bake, or a traditional fish pie to my dad's recipe. Both about as Marguerite Patten as you can get! Actually, when I checked in "Perfect Cooking" I concluded that la grande dame's recipe for fish pie was even more ancient than my father's. Dad insists that the four essential ingredients are white fish, hard-boiled egg, carrot and béchamel sauce, and who am I to argue? My eyes opened up at the prospect of embedding carrots into the dish, but narrowed rapidly when he explained that cutting lengthwise was for yuppies and the original recipe calls for cross-sectional slices. So be it!

Now the eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed the phrase "partly gluten-free" above. A bit like that famous phrase "slightly pregnant". Partly gluten-free, hey?

As usual my dad had a glib answer when questioned. "You just make a pie, one end of which is gluten-free and the other end of which is not", he explained condescendingly. Now I should explain at this point that this is not something you should try at home if any of your dinner guests suffer from acute coeliac disease. But dad's condition is more of an intolerance - chronic but certainly not acute. And so we gave it a go. I made a proper béchamel sauce and he made some sort of disgusting-looking concoction with butter, soy flour, rice flour and milk. We split everything else, made up two mixes and filled the pie dish.

I took photos of the entire process and I'll post a photo recipe shortly. In the meantime, here's the result. Now you'll understand just what the toothpick is for. Without that you serve the dish having forgotten which way round you put it in the oven and invite your coeliac friends to play Russian fish pie roulette!

A little footnote. It's been brought to my attention that although I hold an NVQ Level 2 Pastry Cook & Patissier qualification, I never post any dessert recipes. This week Benjamin Christie posted a reminder of what has been described as Australia's forgotten national dish - wattleseed Pavlova. I've got a day off tomorrow so I'm going to make it - along with a special tribute to a new blogger and a favourite blogger (watch this space!). Maybe this Autumn I'll try what Ray Mears might well describe as Britain's forgotten national dish - acorn and damson crumble.


Ben said...

Hi Aidan. Howard and I have been trying to contact you but keep getting bouncebacks from the blueyonder address. Can you try emailing me directly at ben dot bush at thecroc dot com? Cheers. Ben

The TriniGourmet said...

lolz @ russian fish pie roulette :)

Freya said...

Seems like it might be easier to make two although that removes the 'fun' element (although not for your guests!).
I enjoyed your blog, first visit here!

Karen said...

Nice! I've never tried a fish pie-- when I was younger, I didn't really like fish too much. I do now ahah...Aw, why not lengthwise? XD I love reading this blog, so keep up the good work.

Ros said...

Interesting... I would have thought the two bechamels would sort of mingle when cooking but clearly not!

LOL Cutting lengthwise is for yuppies! I guess that makes me a yuppie then!

Wattleseed pavlova? Where do you get wattleseed from?

Trig said...

It's not me who's got a problem with lengthwise cutting, it's my dad. Back in the 1920s when he learnt to cook all carrots were sliced into rings. He thinks anything invented since 1975 is for yuppies.

More seriously, the sauces don't really mix as they are already mixed with the fish, egg, etc. There is one real potential disaster with this dish, however, and that is making a béchamel that is too loose. If you do that, it bursts through the crust while baking and destroys the final result.

Trig said...

Ros - I got the wattleseed from Vic Cherikoff, an Australian chef who read my blog and sent me a whole load of the native spices that he markets. I've been doing an Australian gastronomy project at college.

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