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



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!


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
  • Print

from The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo

Serves 4


  • 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


  • 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)


  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.


Extraordinary Roasted Chicken, Potatoes and Chickpeas


My 16 year old son, Jake,  has been in Demark visiting friends over the holidays. He is due back later today, having braved an overnight ferry crossing in this hideous weather we have been having. I am really hoping that the weather will have calmed down otherwise the experience will put him off boats and ferries for life. Which would be such a shame. I am also hoping that he has managed to revise for his mock GCSEs which commence this week. I am expecting that he minded his manners, helped out without being asked and didn’t sleep in to the extent he does at home during the holidays.

Well, I am sure that all will be revealed, probably just as soon as he has watched the new, much anticipated BBC drama, Sherlock Holmes – The Empty Hearse. Did I mention that I have already watched it twice? One of my favourite New Years Day tweets was from a good friend who wished everyone a “Happy New Year also known as Happy Sherlock Day!” I think that just about sums it up. I read somewhere that 10 million people tuned in to watch it – that is quite staggering don’t you think? Follow Selma’s Table on Facebook as I will post the update on his trip there.

In the week before Jake left, I discovered Elaine Boddy’s lovely blog, foodbod. Her recipe for Lebanese inspired marinated and roasted chickpeas and potatoes really caught my eye (well it did have chickpeas and potatoes in it – my two favourite food groups) and I actually went out to buy some chicken just so that I could make it.

Oh. My. Goodness.

It is a completely and UTTERLY gorgeous dish. Jake polished off half of it – the recipe serves 4! After it’s stint in the oven, the marinade cooks down to this incredible sticky savouriness around the potatoes and chicken, which when combined with the crispy bits of chickpeas, tender chicken with crispy skin and fluffy, marinade-sodden potatoes, just becomes food heaven on a plate.

I entered the recipe into “Your Best One Pot Meal” contest over on Food52 and was surprised and rather excited to get an email from them saying that I was one of two finalists (out of nearly 200 entries). Voting then started and I was and am, over the moon to have WON!!! Thank you to every one who voted – and a huge thanks to Elaine who inspired it. It’s such a fabulous recipe – I do hope you try it.

This is the link to my  Winners Q & A on the site –

This is the link to the recipe on the site where lots of people have tried it and left comments –


This recipe is so easy to make – mix up the marinade; peel and chop the potatoes; rinse and drain the chickpeas and leave it all in the fridge to marinate for a day.


Then arrange in a roasting dish, cover and pop into an oven for about an hour. Rustic,  flavourful and  charming enough to be served to supper guests.


Elaine cooks it without chicken so I have adapted her recipe to account for this (less oil and the inclusion of buttermilk to further tenderise the chicken) and tweaked the spicing a little too. I think it would be amazing with lamb as well.  I have made it again for Jake’s homecoming.


It needs a day to marinate so what are you waiting for?

Extraordinary Roasted Chicken, Potatoes and Chickpeas

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from  Lebanese inspired marinated and roasted Chickpeas and Potatoes by Elaine Boddy


  • 1  can of chickpeas (400g)
  • 800g floury potatoes  – I used King Edwards the first time and Maris Piper this time – both with excellent results but I preferred the King Edwards
  • 1 whole head of garlic, cloves separated
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (organic/free range preferably)


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 lemons
  • 1 ½  tsp sugar (brown has a better flavour)
  • 1 Tbsp buttermilk/yoghurt
  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp Harissa paste (or adjust this to your taste)
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To finish

  • 2 tsp dry roasted cumin seeds
  • a pack of  coriander leaves, chopped
  • Greek yoghurt or a Tzatziki


  1. Rinse and drain the chickpeas.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 2 inch chunks – the size of roast potatoes.
  3. Give the lemons 30 seconds or so in the microwave to help release more juice. Roll, applying a little pressure;  then slice in half and squeeze out as much juice as you can.
  4. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  5. Place the chicken, chickpeas, potatoes and garlic in a large freezer bag and pour in the marinade. Squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Flop it around a bit to make sure that the marinade gets everywhere. Place on a plate, in a bowl etc. and pop in the fridge to marinade for a day. Turn the bag over whenever you open the fridge over the next 24 hours.
  6. An hour and a half before you are ready to eat; pre-heat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ 375 F. Remove the bag from the fridge and tumble the contents into a large roasting dish – large enough for everything to be spread out so that there is a lot of exposed food surface area. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the dish tightly with foil and cook for 1 hour.  Remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes or so, until the chicken skin and potatoes are crispy and cooked through and the chickpeas get a little crunchy too. Watch like a hawk that the marinade does not go from gooey and delicious to a burnt crisp. Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving platter/dish and scatter over the roasted cumin seeds and chopped coriander.
  7. Serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt or Tzatziki on the side and prepare to be worshipped.

Copyright – © 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.

Goats’ Cheese, Onion and Potato Bread with Thyme


Photo by Stuart Ovenden

I had a big birthday recently. Ok, so it was two years ago recently. Knowing full well my passion for food, my dissatisfaction with my job and my hive inducing reaction to big changes in my life, my dear friends N and J sent me on a food styling course at Leith’s Food and Wine in west London in the hopes that I might find a truer calling and stop the whining I was subjecting them to.

It was an amazing experience run by the lovely Sarah Cook, Deputy Food Editor of BBC Good Food magazine. One of our first tasks was to try and recreate the “money shot” on a ready meal using a pack of M&S lasagne. Well that was an eye opener. In the UK, one cannot use more food in the photo than is in the ready meal itself. So in order to make the lasagne look fuller as in the pack photo, the pasta was separated from the ragout and the sauce as best as we could manage. Then paper towels were scrunched up and strategically centred on the pasta whilst filling in the edges with what now looked to be a terribly generous portion of ragout. Apparently, we could have used cardboard to level the floppy pasta sheets. We also got to make and style a Greek salad and a fruit trifle, using our own props, both of which were challenging! The course culminated with a professional photo shoot using food we had made. Sarah brought in some amazing props which she has been collecting, magpie like over the course of her career and we got to work with the uber talented Stuart Ovenden Food/Lifestyle Photographer & Deputy Art Editor, Good Food Magazine at BBC Worldwide.

I realised fairly early on in the course that placing bits of parsley with a set of tweezers was not for me – I like a more natural finish which is not to say that I don’t appreciate a beautifully styled shot – I just don’t have the patience for it and can drive myself to distraction agonising over which berry should be at the front of the shot. So when it came time to decide what to make for the shoot I remembered a Delia Smith bread recipe that I had earmarked from a long time ago and thought I would give it a try. I mean, why make something I had tried before right? Luckily I had had some sort of foresight to buy extra chèvre because of course the first loaf, delicious as it was, looked a complete and hideous mess. The second one turned out beautifully but as I was now running late, I had to pack it (and its ugly older sister), still warm, loosely wrapped in its parchment paper into a basket along with some props which I thought we could use and schlep across London on Sunday public transport to the school. The Tube has never smelt so delicious as I sat there pretending that it had nothing to do with me!

The ugly sister

The ugly sister

Second loaf prior to baking

Second loaf prior to baking

My photo of the second loaf

My photo of the second loaf

I fretted all the way there worrying that I had done something too basic – it wasn’t even a yeasted bread…and when I got to the shoot, my worst fears were confirmed. One person had prepared a trio of beautiful tarts complete with chocolate decorations. Another had made a meze of three or four Lebanese dishes – from scratch. Someone else  had caramelised a pear and made a ginger pudding with chocolate sauce…a fourth was doing some fantastic wizardry with a sugar candy machine to make candy floss “ice cream” cones.

I sheepishly laid out my props on one of the tables and pulled out the loaf , smoothing out the parchment paper to let it finish off cooling.  Sarah came over and said how wonderful it smelled and looked, Stuart came over, smiled and asked if he could have a piece of the ugly sister to eat and went back to shooting and before I knew it, most of the ugly sister had been eaten by people coming over to take a look. Still feeling a little sheepish when it was my turn I hesitantly took it over to the table where Stuart was working. He practically snatched it out of my hands and told me that he wanted to shoot it as it was, on the parchment it had been baked in and transported on and that props really would not be necessary as it was such a beautiful thing on its own.  I was speechless. Can I tell you that I’m ridiculously proud that he included it on his gorgeous blog appledrane, here some time later?

Below are some of the images that were shot on the day. Aren’t they gorgeous?



Looks aside, this is a really delicious bread, which smells wonderful. It is quick as no yeast is involved and goes well with a soup or with cold cuts. Yet another good candidate for a picnic.


  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Delia Smith
Makes one delicious loaf which will serve 4-6 people


  • 180g log of firm goats cheese (chèvre)
  • 4 spring onions finely sliced
  • 1 spring onion coarsely sliced for the top
  • 175g (approx) red potato which is about a medium one
  • 1 generous Tbsp of chopped thyme leaves as well as a couple of sprigs for the top
  • 175g self raising flour plus a little more to sprinkle on the top
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp (30ml) milk
  • 1 heaped tsp of grain mustard


  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
  2. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a sturdy baking tray and butter a 6 inch loaf shaped area onto it.
  3. With a sharp knife, remove the rind as best as you can from the chèvre. Don’t worry if there are a few bits left on here and there. Then slice it into half inch cubes. Set aside about a 1/3 for the top.
  4. Sift the flour, salt and cayenne pepper into a bowl. I have found that I can get the same effect by putting all the ingredients into a bowl and using a balloon whisk to mix and aerate it.
  5. Peel the potato and coarsely grate it into the flour mixture. Tip in the finely sliced spring onions and 2/3’s of the cheese and mix it all together with a palette knife.
  6. Gently whisk the egg with the milk and mustard, then pour the mixture onto the dry ingredients. Using the palette knife, Bring it all together to a form a loose, rough dough.
  7. Tumble it onto the buttered parchment paper on the baking sheet and gently form it into a 6 inch (15 cm) rough loaf. Lightly press the rest of the cheese over the surface as well as the coarser chopped spring onion. Dust with a little flour and scatter over the small sprigs of thyme.
  8. Bake the bread on the middle shelf of the oven for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove it to a cooling rack and serve it still slightly warm if possible.

Makes one delicious loaf which will serve 4-6 people

© 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.