Fish Pie

This recipe is a combination of traditional mashed-potato topped fish pie and dauphinoise potatoes, with some extra vegetables thrown in because I throw extra vegetables into everything. I used whiting, but any other sustainable white fish such as pouting can be used; similarly the cuttlefish balls (which I found in the local Chinese supermarket) can be substituted out for any other shellfish depending on what’s available.

Gently heat 400ml milk in a non-stick frying pan with 1/2 diced onion, 4 cloves, 2 bay leaves and a pinch of salt. Once the milk is steaming, tip in a large handful of Brussels sprouts, peeled and halved, and about half of a small sweet potato, cut into 1 cm cubes. Poach until beginning to soften, then add 200g whiting, cut into 1 inch slices, and 4-5 cuttlefish balls, cut into eighths. Once the fish is cooked through, lift everything out of the milk with a slotted spoon (or use a sieve) and place in a large casserole dish. Stir in 1/3 cup sweetcorn and 1/3 cup edamame beans or peas.

Return the milk to the heat and add 3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly (ideally ~1 mm); add extra milk to cover if necessary. Poach, occasionally stirring to make sure they don’t stick together, until they are just cooked through. Lift the potatoes out of the milk and layer over the fish mixture.

Pour the milk into a jug, stir in 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1 tablespoon of cream if desired, and set aside. Wipe down the inside of the frying pan, then melt 25 g butter over a medium heat. Mix 2 tablespoons flour into the butter and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the roux is dark golden in colour. Pour the milk into the frying pan in increments, making sure that the mixture is well combined before adding more. Continue adding milk until a white sauce consistency is reached – this should take all the milk in the jug, and might need more. Season the sauce with salt and black pepper, then pour over the potatoes, making sure that it soaks through into the fish mixture.

Bake the pie in the oven at 180°C for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily broken with a fork and the top of the pie is golden-brown.

Serves four, suitable for freezing.

Kidney bean and soya chilli

Soya (TVP) chunks aren’t particularly cheap or easy to get hold of, which is a shame because they’re a fantastic ingredient – shelf stable, adaptable, and really easy to cook (I’m lucky enough to have a cheap supply  close to home). If you don’t have access to soya chunks you can use a meat of your choice, quorn, or firm tofu.

I owe it to my friend Sam for revealing the secret ingredients of a really good chilli – instant coffee and cocoa powder.

Thoroughly rinse 1 400g can kidney beans (you can soak them in water with a few spoonfuls of baking soda to reduce problems with wind). Preheat the oven to 180°C. If you have an oven safe saucepan or stovetop safe casserole dish, use that for cooking – if not, cook in a saucepan and transfer to a casserole dish. Fry 1/2 onion, sliced, and 2 large cloves garlic, sliced, in a spoonful of oil until golden. While the onion is cooking, rehydrate half a cup of soya chunks using boiling water, leaving to soak while you cook the vegetables. Add to the dish 1 small sweet potato, diced into 1cm chunks, and 1/4 red cabbage, also diced. Once the sweet potato is beginning to brown, drain off the soya chunks and kidney beans and add them to the dish with 1 400g can chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp instant coffee powder, 1 tsp cocoa powder and a pinch of chilli flakes. Refill the tomato can with hot water and stir in 1 tsp stock powder; pour about half into the chilli and leave the rest aside in case you need it later. Cover the casserole dish (use foil if you don’t have a lid) and cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes, adding more stock if needed, until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce and the soya chunks are soft to the bite. Five minutes before the end of the cooking time, stir in half a cup of sweetcorn.

Makes 3 portions, keeps in the fridge for a few days. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Guest Recipe: Rhey’s Jambalaya

My American friend Rhey and I made this together over Skype on Thanksgiving. It’s not strictly authentic, but personally I prefer Rhey’s less-meat-more-vegetables take on this traditional Cajun dish.

Cut 1 small plantain and 1 small sweet potato into large chunks and place on a baking tray with a drizzle of oil and a few cracks of black pepper. Roast at 180°C while preparing the rest of the dish. Cut 2 pork sausages into chunks and brown in a little butter in a large saucepan. Remove the sausage chunks and fry 1 onion, roughly chopped, and 2-3 cloves garlic, finely diced, until beginning to soften. Add 1 red or orange pepper, cut into chunks, and a large handful of red cabbage, roughly chopped. Fry until the onion becomes translucent, then add the sausage, 1 cup long or short grain rice, 2 cups hot stock, 1 tbsp paprika or smoked paprika, a pinch of salt, a generous crack of black pepper, cayenne pepper to taste, and a splash of Worcester sauce or soy sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes until the rice is almost cooked through, lifting occasionally to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan but not stirring. Take the plantain and sweet potato out of the oven and mix it into the jambalaya with a large handful of pre-cooked prawns. Cook for a final ten minutes or until the prawns are heated through and the rice is done, then serve.

Makes 3-4 portions, depending how hungry you are. Keeps in the fridge for a few days.

Variations:

  • Instead of prawns, Rhey used chicken, cooked with the sausage. It’s traditional for jambalaya to have two meats, but it’s not vital.
  • What vegetables you add to the jambalaya depends on what you have lying around. Any other hard vegetables, such as carrot or parsnip, can be roasted with the sweet potato. Soft vegetables like peas or sweetcorn could be added towards the end of the cooking time; vegetables like green beans or broccoli would probably be best steamed separately and again added with the sweet potato.

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Leaf Soup

Rather than wasting cauliflower leaves, I tried throwing them into this simple broth recipe – it worked surprisingly well. Both the stem and leaf takes a while to cook down, so there’s no need to separate them as I would with softer leaves such as pak choi.

Thinly slice 2 pink or red onions, 2 cloves of garlic and the leaves from a large cauliflower. Peel, slice thinly and cut into strips 1 medium sweet potato. Melt a generous amount of butter (or oil for vegan) in a deep saucepan and fry the onion and garlic until beginning to soften; add the sweet potato and cauliflower leaves with 1 tsp chinese five spice and 1 tsp cumin. Make up 1l stock with 1 tbsp vegetable stock powder and 1 tsp miso paste (or 1 tbsp soy sauce); add to the vegetables, stir well, bring to the boil then simmer for 1/2 hour or until the cauliflower leaves are soft to the bite. Season with salt and black pepper if desired.

Serves 3 with bread.

Lentil Lasagne

Takes some time and practice, especially the sauce, but it’s an old favourite of mine.

Cover 1/2 cup red lentils with boiling water and leave to stand. Fry 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced and 1 red onion, thickly chopped, in a little oil over a medium heat until beginning to soften. Add 1/2 medium sweet potato, cubed, 1/2 bell pepper, thickly chopped and 1/4 red cabbage, thickly chopped, and fry for five minutes, stirring. Strain the lentils and add to the pan with 4-5 mushrooms, quartered, 1/2 can chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard and 1 tsp cumin seeds. Leave to simmer while preparing the sauce.
To make the sauce, melt 2 tbsp butter (about 1cm cut from a 100g block) in a small saucepan, then at add 2 heaped tbsp plain flour and stir thoroughly. The mixture should be thick and gluey, coming away from the side of the pan. If it’s thin, stir in a little more flour. Stirring constantly, slowly add 1 cup milk in increments – allow the sauce to thicken before adding more. Continue to cook the sauce for 2-3 minutes, then add a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp paprika and/or a handful of grated cheese if desired.
Spoon half of the lentil mixture into a large casserole dish and cover with sheets of lasagne (the amount you need will depend on the size of your dish). Pour over half of the sauce and smooth it out. Don’t worry if the sauce is thin – it will taste fine. Add the rest of the lentil mixture, cover with lasagne sheets, and pour over the rest of the sauce, making sure the pasta is covered. Crack pepper over the top and place in the oven at 180°C for 40 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through and easily cut with a knife.

Serves 3 generously, easily frozen

Variations:

  • For vegan, substitute the butter for margarine and milk for a non-dairy milk. I think soya milk works best for this recipe – better than dairy milk – but other milks should be fine. I’ve tried making white sauces with coconut milk, though, and I wouldn’t advise it.
  • Any of the vegetables can be substituted out for others; hard vegetables should be added with the cabbage and soft with the mushrooms and tomato. Particular favourites of mine are aubergine, peas, carrot and cauliflower.
  • Sliced fresh tomatoes can be arranged on top of the lasagne before baking. Particularly impressive if you have guests.
  • The lasagne sheets can be replaced with thinly sliced aubergine, although it will take longer to cook in the oven.

Vegetable Ramen

Adapted from a Wagamama recipe.

In generous amounts of oil, fry 2 inches aubergine, thinly sliced; equal volume sweet potato, thinly sliced; 1/4 yellow pepper, thinly sliced; 1/3 green pepper, thinly sliced; 2 florets broccoli, thinly sliced. Once softened, take off heat, add 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, a pinch of chilli flakes and set aside to marinate. Cover 1 portion udon noodles in boiling water and cook at a rolling boil for 6-7 minutes or until soft to the bite. In a bowl mix 1 tsp miso paste and 1/2 tsp vegetable stock with a little boiling water. Fill the bowl half full, making sure the paste is well mixed. Add the noodles to the broth, followed by the vegetables.

Serves 1 – vegetables can be doubled up and the spare portion kept in the fridge for a few days

Variations:

  • Really any vegetables can be used for this. The harder the vegetable, the thinner it will need to be sliced and the longer it will take to cook.
  • Will also work with instant noodles

Vegetable Casserole

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Melt 1tbsp butter in a large saucepan. Fry 1 leek, sliced and 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped until soft. Add 1 can kidney beans, rinsed; 4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped; 6 small carrots, peeled and chopped; 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped; fry for a few minutes then stir in 1 can coconut milk, 1/3 cup chopped tomato, 1/3 cup stock, 1 tbsp paprika, 1/2 tbsp basil and 1 tsp cayenne pepper. Transfer to casserole dish, cover, cook for 35 minutes. Mix 1 tsp cornflour with a little hot water to make a paste. Stir into casserole, cook for a further 5 minutes.

Serves 3 generously

Variations:

  • Swap butter for vegetable oil for vegan
  • A large onion can be used instead of leek
  • Cornflour can be left out, just add a little less liquid or cook for a little longer
  • Any root vegetables can be used instead of carrot and potato
  • Sweet potato can be substituted for squash or pumpkin
  • Any softer vegetables should be added 10 minutes into the oven cooking time
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée or tomato ketchup and an extra 1/3 cup of stock can be used instead of chopped tomato