Cook the Books – Gratin au Poisson Fumé (Smoky Fish Bake)

Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_Bake

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I was very pleased to receive Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen as a gift a couple of years ago. I haven’t seen any of the TV programmes on which this book is based but I have very much enjoyed reading the recipes, exclaiming over how pretty she is and coveting her vintage yet chic vibe. It’s probably a good thing that I haven’t seen her in action as I would probably be totally besotted. Her cooking is French classic with a modern twist; simple yet flavourful and I have bookmarked quite a few of her recipes to try.

Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_BakeThis recipe for a Gratin au Poisson Fumé or Smoky Fish Bake came highly recommended by my friend C who gave me the book and rightly so. Rachel Khoo’s method of making béchamel is genius – taking the roux off the heat before adding the milk has resulted in a lump-free sauce every single time.

My only protest would be at the meagre quantity of fish – it is my opinion that 200g to feed up to 6 people is so stingy as to border on the penurious. At the weekend, we were 4 for lunch and I used 320g of smoked haddock fillets and 240g of lightly smoked salmon plus about 18og of raw prawns/shrimps (but these are full of water and cook down to nothing really) and there was perhaps a small serving spoonful left in the dish at the end of the meal. Normally, I buy a 320g Fish Pie Mix from Sainsbury’s  (my Local didn’t have any so I had to improvise with the fillets), but even then I tend to add an extra couple of salmon fillets and a packet of prawns to the mix. The thought of under-catering makes me feel quite anxious!

This is a lovely dish, comforting but not heavy in the way a fish pie can be and full of those deeply savoury, smoky fish flavours which marry so well with creamy sauces. A spoonful of grain mustard is also nice stirred into the béchamel while it cools as is a little chopped tarragon. You can also prepare it ahead so that all you have to do is pop it in the oven when your guests arrive. We had the gratin with roasted beetroot and a green salad using the delicious produce from my Sutton Community Farm veg box. Rachel suggests that leftover vegetables from a roast dinner can be added to the béchamel too, but I like to keep it simple with the fish and potatoes and usually serve it with a bowl of peas and a green salad.

I have to apologise for my rather uninspiring photo of the finished dish. I had two ravenous teenagers  as well as my friend J round and I don’t think any of them would have been able to contain themselves while I got arty with food styling.  I managed to get a quick shot of it when it came out of the oven and that’s it. There wasn’t even enough leftover for me to style a plate but rather than not post it at all, I had to share as this is such a delicious recipe!

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Put the potatoes on to boil

Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_BakeMake the bechamel

Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_BakeMix the fish, parsley and potatoes into the béchamel, then pour into an oven safe baking dish, scatter over the cheese and tomatoes and bake. Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_Bake

Gratin au Poisson Fumé (Smoky Fish Bake)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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from The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 750g (8-10 medium ones) potatoes, peeled and already cooked – you can use left over roast potatoes (if such a thing exists!)
  • 200g smoked haddock, skin removed (I used 320g smoked haddock; 240g lightly smoked  salmon fillets; 180g raw prawns/shrimps) or use a pack of 320g fish pie mix and a couple of salmon fillets
  • a handful of chopped parsley
  • a handful of grated cheese – use up odds and ends of cheeses like Mature Cheddar, Comté, Gruyere or Parmesan
  • a small handful of halved cherry tomatoes – my addition to the recipe

Béchamel 

  • 30 g butter
  • 30g flour
  • 500 ml milk (lukewarm – 2 mins in the microwave worked for me)
  • bay leaf
  • ½ an onion (I used a shallot)
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 clove (didn’t use)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. If you don’t have any cooked potatoes, peel the appropriate amount and cut into thirds. Place in a saucepan of cold, salted water with a couple of bay leaves. Cover and set on the hob. Turn on the heat and set a timer for 20 minutes. They should be cooked enough by then – enough to get a knife through but not falling apart. They will continue to cook in the oven. When the pan comes to a boil, turn down the heat to low and set the lid askew. Drain in a colander and set aside.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, you can start the béchamel. Melt the butter in a large saucepan (because you are going to add the fish and potatoes to the béchamel before turning it all out into a dish) over medium heat. Add the flour and beat well until you have a smooth paste. Take off the heat and leave to cool for a couple of minutes.
  3. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly. Place the pan back on a medium heat and add the onion, clove and bay leaf. Simmer for 10 minutes whisking frequently. If sauce becomes too thick, whisk in a little more milk. Finish sauce by removing the onion, clove and bay leaf; stir in the nutmeg and season with a little salt and some white pepper (or black if you are not bothered by the dark specks) Leave to cool slightly.  (If you are making this ahead, let the béchamel cool completely)
  4. Pre-heat oven to 180 C/ 350 F, unless you are making this ahead.
  5. While the béchamel is cooking and cooling, I skin and slice up the fish fillets into 1 inch cubes; slice the potatoes into 1 cm rounds; grate the cheese; halve the cherry tomatoes and chop the parsley.
  6. Add the chunks of fish and the prawns to the béchamel and mix gently. Add the potatoes and most of the parsley (reserve a little to sprinkle on at the end) and mix again.
  7. Pour into an oven safe baking dish, scatter over the cherry tomatoes and the grated cheese. At this point, as long as the béchamel is cool/cold, you can loosely cover the dish with cling film and pop it in the fridge until you are ready to cook.
  8. This mix does bubble up as it cooks so if your dish is very full, place it on a baking tray to save having to clean the oven later.
  9. Cook for 25 minutes (35 minutes if fridge cold) or until the top is golden and sauce is bubbling.
  10. Scatter over the reserved parsley and serve after the dish has had 10 minutes or so to settle.
  11. Great with a bowl of peas and a green salad.

Baked Fruit and Oatmeal

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealOatmeal is not something I enjoyed as a child. My memories of porridge is that it was quite thin and watery and not very tasty at all – which is quite at odds with the delicious food I grew up with. When I began baking in my teens, I found that oatmeal was brilliant to make chewy chocolate chip cookies with.  I also discovered those packets of flavoured instant oats which bolstered me up during what felt like endless sessions of binge revision. As a mother of a school age child, I knew how nutritious and sustaining porridge is for those dark, cold, wintery school mornings and set about making it delicious as well. I don’t know if this is how you make it but I put a cup of oats in a pan and toast them slightly, I then add 2 cups of milk and one of water and stir over a medium low heat until thick and creamy. I ladle a portion into a shallow rimmed bowl, shake over some cinnamon and sprinkle it with 1 dessert spoonful of Demerara  sugar which goes syrupy. I peel a tangerine or a clementine and arrange the segments around the lip of the bowl like chubby rays of sunshine. Sometimes, I add some frozen blueberries to the bottom of bowl before ladling in the porridge. By the time my son gets to the table, dressed for school, the porridge has cooled down sufficiently to not delay him and I am quietly smug in the knowledge that he’s not going to be experiencing that mid morning sugar crash AND that I’ve managed to get 1 or 2 portions of fruit in him already. At the weekends, breakfasts are a more leisurely affair; eggs and sausages or french toast or pancakes but oatmeal doesn’t figure.

Until now, that is. I saw a photo for Oatmeal Casserole (which sounds a little grim, don’t you think?) on Pinterest and then surfed through several recipes for Baked Oatmeal, many of which included chocolate. This is my version which is full of healthy ingredients and tastes absolutely delicious. It’s warm, fruity, nutty and chewy. It takes about 15 minutes to put together and needs half an hour in the oven, filling the kitchen with gorgeous aromas as it bakes. It is ideal for a weekend breakfast. Left overs can be taken into to work or frozen in portions and warmed up in the microwave. You can chop and change the fruit and nuts to suit your palate or take into account what is in your cupboards. This is also something that you could bake in the evening during the week, to effortlessly have ready for the following morning.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealPlace the oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, walnuts, dried fruit and half the blueberries in a large bowl.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealGrate in the orange zest and mix thoroughly.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealSlice one banana and arrange on the bottom of the oven safe dish. Cover with the dried mixed ingredients (which I forgot to photograph!)

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealJuice the orange.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealWhisk the wet ingredients together in the same mixing bowl you used for the dry ingredients. (If you want to substitute honey or agave syrup for the sugar, add it now, to the wet ingredients.) I find that it is best to “temper” melted butter by slowly whisking in a little cold milk into it and then adding it to everything else. Otherwise, the melted butter just solidifies into fat globules that float on top.

IMG_6150Slowly and gently, pour the wet mixture over the oatmeal mix.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealScatter over the remaining blueberries and the coconut flakes. (If you wish to use desiccated coconut instead, mix it in with the dry ingredients.) Slice the second banana and arrange over the top and bake for half an hour. (A scattering of pumpkin or sunflower seeds would be nice too.)

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Baked-fruit-and-oatmealServe warm with a dollop of yoghurt.

I have included some vegan options for the dairy and egg but these are untested by me. Thanks to Susan Edelman of watchhatchfly for the information!

Baked Fruit and Oatmeal

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups oats (anything but instant or quick cook)
  • 1/4 cup muscavodo (or brown) sugar plus enough for a sprinkle later
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • zest of 1 orange
  • ½ cup walnut pieces – broken up to make them smaller
  • ½ cup dried mixed fruit like cranberries and cherries or apricots and raisins or dates
  • 1 cup of blueberries divided into two portions
  • 2 large ripe bananas
  • 3tbsp/45g  melted butter (or vegan soy spread/coconut oil)
  • 2 cups milk ( or soy milk/almond milk/rice milk)
  • 1 large egg ( or applesauce/mashed banana/vegan egg replacer/ground chia and flax seeds)
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut flakes
  • yoghurt to serve (or coconut milk or soy milk yoghurt)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F.
  2. Butter or oil an oven safe dish (mine is 28 x 20cm/11″x 8″).
  3. Thoroughly mix the first 9 ingredients (using only half the blueberries)  in a large bowl to distribute everything evenly.
  4. Slice one banana and arrange on the bottom of the dish.
  5. Cover with the dry mixed ingredients.
  6. In the same bowl that you used for the dry ingredients, lightly whisk the egg.
  7. Slowly whisk a a cup of milk into the cooled butter to amalgamate it and pour it and the second cup of milk onto the whisked egg together with the vanilla and the orange juice and whisk again.
  8. Slowly and evenly pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients.
  9. Scatter over the remaining portion of blueberries and the coconut flakes (some seeds would be nice too).
  10. Top with the slices from the second banana.
  11. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.
  12. Sprinkle a little more brown sugar over the top and leave to cool a little.
  13. Serve warm with yoghurt.

Fruited Soda Bread with Sunflower Seeds and Rosemary

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I have been intending to make a soda bread ever since baking one on Nina Oortman‘s brilliant bread making class.  (You can read the post I wrote about that class – Bread Angel –  Nina Oortman  by clicking on the link.)  I’ve mulled over different flavour combinations and wondered if my temperamental oven would render the bread inedible. I finally took the bull by the horns and made one, lightly perfumed with rosemary and scattered through with mixed peel, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. It was very nice indeed. Lovely with a piece of cheddar as an after school snack.

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Soda breads are so quick and easy to make – they are made without yeast and don’t require any kneading either. In fact, the less the dough is handled, the better. One has to work quickly as the baking soda starts to react pretty much straight away with the buttermilk so I wasn’t able to stop and take photos of the process this time. It will work with all sorts of different combinations of ingredients, sun dried tomato and feta cheese; cheddar and spring onion; raisin and cinnamon, chopped olives and mozzarella…

Buttermilk – The name conjures up bucolic images of  metal canisters of rich creamy milk at the barn door full of fat globules of yellow butter floating in it. Buttermilk is nothing of the sort. Originally it was used to describe the whey that was left behind after butter had been churned from cream. Today it is made from pasteurised skimmed milk to which a culture of lactic acid bacteria added. The lactic acid works on fermenting the lactose, ( the main sugar in milk) decreasing the PH which causes the milk to clabber or get thicker and taste sour. 100ml contains 59 kcals, 0.1 g of fat, 7.8g sugar, 8.8g carbohydrate and 5.5g protein which is quite respectable. Buttermilk is often used with baking soda as a raising agent as the acid activates the bicarbonate to produce carbon dioxide, thus producing pockets of air in baked goods like scones, pancakes and soda bread. It is wonderful for tenderising chicken in a marinade and making salad dressings too.

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Polish Buttermilk

If you come across any shops with Polish groceries, then look for Maslanka in the dairy section, which is the Polish name for buttermilk.

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Fruited Soda Bread with Sunflower Seeds and Rosemary

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Nina Oortman’s Bread Angel Baking Class

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g strong white or plain flour (not self raising)
  • 1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (or baking soda)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 50 g mixed peel
  • 50 g dried cranberries
  • 25 g pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary needles
  • 300 g buttermilk (or full fat milk with lemon juice)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F and line a good solid baking tray with parchment.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt until it is well mixed and aerated.
  3. Gently stir in the dried fruit, seeds and rosemary.
  4. Make a well in the middle of flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk.
  5. Using a dinner knife, cut in as quickly and gently as you can until all the buttermilk has been absorbed and you have a scraggy dough. Do not over mix or your loaf will be tough.
  6. Scrape the dough onto the prepared tray and shape into an oval or a round. Using a serrated knife, slash a deep cross through it. This helps with heat distribution but tradition has it that it was to let the devil out! Sprinkle a little flour over the top.
  7. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes depending on how hot your oven is. The loaf should sound hollow when you tap the base.
  8. Delicious warm and best enjoyed on the day it is made.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

If you are in or around Malvern and want to learn how to make this and yeasted breads, Nina has added another bread making class to the roster  – click on the link for more information or if you would like to book yourself in – http://www.ninasbakery.co.uk/classes.html

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Courgette, Feta and Thyme Bake

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Pinterest is the rabbit hole of the internet for me. It has led me to many a new discovery; from art to icons, amazing interiors and gardens and food of course. If there is one thing that can be said about Pinterest is that it is absolutely bursting at the seams with food pictures from pinners all over the world.

We have had an amazing summer this year and the courgettes have been absolutely delicious. Whilst I love them raw, shredded and dressed with lemon, olive oil with shavings of parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of fresh mint or griddlled and added to a couscous, I am always on the lookout for new recipes. So when I came across this pin which led me to this recipe, I knew that it would become a summer regular at my table. It is light and lemony with depth from the golden onions, salty with feta and with a wonderful herbal note from the thyme. It is absolutely delicious!

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You gently sauté an onion until it is golden, stir in some minced garlic and thyme leaves then sauté courgette slices until they have just started to soften and are coated in the delicious flavoured oil.

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You take a couple of eggs; and these are some of the most delicious eggs I have ever eaten, from a biodynamic farm in Sussex that I get from our local Farmers Market.

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Whisk them lightly, then stir in lemon juice, sour cream, grated parmesan and feta cheese.

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Layer a scant half of the courgettes in the bottom of a well buttered baking dish

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and cover with a really scant half of the egg mixture, spreading it as necessary to cover the courgettes.

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Then do the same again, finishing with a handful of halved cherry tomatoes.

After baking, let it cool down a little to have warm with some seared salmon or roast chicken or have as a lovely light lunch with a salad. It would also be terrific to take on a picnic.

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I had half a pack of feta left over which I find always goes off before I can use it. So this time I cubed and packed it into a tiny little jar with thyme and covered the cubes with olive oil and popped it in the fridge.  Use in salads or when roasting red peppers…

Courgette, Feta and Thyme Bake

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 medium courgettes
  • 1-2 Tbsp worth of fresh thyme leaves depending on how much you like thyme
  • 1 Tbsp mild olive oil (don’t waste extra virgin on frying)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150g sour cream which is half a tub
  • 100g feta cubed or crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan which you can judge by eyeballing the pile
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.
  2. Start by warming the olive oil in the pan on a medium heat. Peel, halve and slice the onion into half moons and tip into pan, sprinkling with a little salt to help release the water in the onions. Wash the courgettes and slice into rounds that are about as thick a pound coin. Keep an eye on the onions, stirring from time to time so that they don’t catch and burn. Stir in the garlic and the thyme leaves. I added a splash of water to help keep everything going at this point. Then tip in the sliced courgettes and sauté for about 4 or 5 minutes – long enough to only just soften them and coat them in the lovely oil. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Lightly whisk the eggs then stir in the sour cream, parmesan, feta, the juice from squeezing that lemon half and some cracked black pepper. It will feel thick and look a little curdled from the lemon juice. The cheeses are both quite salty so you shouldn’t need any additional salt.
  4. In a well buttered ovenproof dish, layer a scant half of the courgettes and cover with a very scant half of the egg mix. Repeat, finishing with a scattering of the halved cherry tomatoes.
  5. Bake for 25- 30 minutes. The original recipe call for 40 minutes but that is much too long in my oven that seems super hot. I checked after 20 minutes and it was almost done so I took it out after 30 minutes.
  6. Let it cool a little before serving warm.

Serves 6 as side dish or 4 as a light lunch with salad

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.