Evidence that Fran has started the year a domestic goddess
I thought I'd write about fish pie as it's the start of the new year and there are many, many reasons I am not the right person to write a blog about new year resolutions ...
I made a fish pie last night for dinner because there was a packet of supermarket pastry in the fridge that never got converted into mince pies over Christmas.
Why didn't I make the mince pies? Mainly because I knew that no one would eat them over Christmas because they'd all be stuffed to perdition with other goodies. So, if I'd made 48, I would eat 47 of them and then my husband, who's not a major fan (of mince PIES, you at the back!!) would wander into the kitchen in mid-January and say, 'Were there any of those mince pies about that you made before Christmas? I could just fancy one.'
And I'd have to admit that the tin contained one lonely pie. It may even have a bite taken out of it already and he'd never believe a sob story about weevils however hard I tried. Alongside the lonesome pie would be a few crumbs. And some of my guilt, which can't help but fall off me and into a tin of pies as I wrench off the lid. The guilt lies there among the pies and looks up at me on each successive visit, like someone you've paralysed and who is spreadeagled prostrate on the ground, eyes dark with accusation.
My husband is the same with chocolate: self-disciplined in a way that makes me want to spit. He'll eat one or two squares at a time, then wrap it back up. And biscuits. Just one with a coffee. And cake. Moderate slices, unlike the breeze-block slabs I cut and have to eat with a knife and fork.
|His cake in the foreground. My portion in the background.
Back to the pie, before I upset myself and need gin.
The pastry was dated before Christmas so technically was ten days past its use-by date. But, hey. I'm a cynic when it comes to use-by dates. After all, I went a bit stale in 2009 but I'm still going strong.
I've never made a fish pie using pastry before. I guess I could have looked for a recipe. But I'm not really a recipe person. I like to go on instinct. Sometimes that means we end up eating chicken that you could use for the soles of boots, or soup that would block a sewer if poured neat down the drain, but mostly I get it right.
Here's what I did, in case you want to do it too.
Into the pan went some fresh haddock and then some smoked haddock. Half a pint of milk. A knob of butter Nigella would be proud of. A shedload of dill. Black pepper. Salt. A few peas.
You might want a bit of spring onion. I did too, but there was none in the cupboard. But my husband was pleased there was none. He does not like onion at all. I do my best to chop it finely, but if he finds any in his dinner, he picks them out gingerly as though they're novichok and puts them on the edge of his plate.
I simmered the fish for about five minutes, just to get the flavours going. I didn't want it to overcook, bearing in mind its forthcoming half hour in the oven. Soles of boots, and all that.
Meanwhile, I rolled out half the pastry, lined a pie dish, and rolled out the top of the pie, ready and waiting.
Into the pie went the half-cooked fish and the yummy sauce. Plop - on went the pie lid. Round the edges I went with a sharp knife, at an angle, to cut the extra pastry off, just as Mrs Gough taught me in Domestic Science in 1977, God bless her and her floury big hands. Then squish squish squish round the edges so that the pie edges stuck together and it wouldn't leak. Dig dig into the pie with a knife to let the steam out. Brush brush with a smidgeon of milk to get nice brown bits on the crust, and into the oven it went.
It did leak. It leaked like the sea would leak if you pulled its plug out. It leaked like one of Shakespeare's unstaunched wenches. It leaked like a Budget Speech. It leaked all over the bottom of the oven, a layer of crusty sauce, so that later
You can probably infer from all this that the pie wasn't the moistest pie ever made.
But, boy, it was still good. We ate it with veggies - carrots, sweetcorn and broccoli - so, what with the yellow and white fish, the green peas, the orange carrots, sunny-yellow sweetcorn and the green broccoli, we were basically eating a small child's painting of a meal. 'Do you want another piece of pie?' I said to my husband when we'd finished. I was half-way to the pie dish with my plate.
'Why don't we leave it for lunch tomorrow?' he called after me.
'Damn and blast you, you masochistic, self-denying Puritan, you,' I
Cold, for lunch today, the pie was even better. I ate it with cold veggies, mayonnaise, and some spiced pickled onions my sister made. I did consider putting a stack of the onions on his plate and pretending I'd done it by accident.
But it's the New Year, and one of my resolutions is to try and be more forgiving. As you can tell, it's going like a breeze.
|Fran was delighted to find one could fit 39 mince pies in an average briefcase