Sophie’s Ultimate Fish Pie

Sophie's Ultimate Fish Pie!
Sophie’s Ultimate Fish Pie!

I love fish pie. In my opinion, it’s the ultimate comfort food, because it’s rich, creamy (yet light at the same time), features mashed potato – and seafood is always a bonus.  This recipe involves a light poaching of the fish, a nutmeg & saffron infused mashed potato and a great range of different types of fish. If you tell your local fish monger what you’re making, they will prep and chop the fish for you – saving you time and effort, and minimising the risk of any bones being found in the pie. I also add jumbo king prawns, which I remove from the shell and add whole. Hmmm, yummy.

This dish is great served with a range of sides dishes; here, I serve it will buttered petits pois and green beans, however, it’s also great with baked beans or wilted spinach, depending on the situation or who you’re serving it to. Kids love the baked bean option, with a dash of ketchup, as you can imagine 🙂

This recipe serves 4 and in total takes about 1 hour to prep & cook. If you’re not going to cook the pie straight away, be sure to add 10 minutes to the cooking time below, (as it will have had time to cool if you prep it ahead and cook it later).

what you need;

for the filling

  • 400ml milk
  • 100g cod fillet, diced into chunks
  • 100g smoked haddock, diced into chunks
  • 100g Scottish salmon fillets, diced into chunks
  • 6 raw jumbo king prawns, peeled
Jumbo King Prawns, Scottish Salmon, Cod and Smoked Haddock
Jumbo King Prawns, Scottish Salmon, Cod and Smoked Haddock

for the mash

  • 1 kg (3-4 large) floury potatoes, such as Maris Pipers, peeled chopped into 2cm chunks
  • a splash of milk
  • 2 medium, free-range egg yolks
  • 30g butter, softened
  • pinch of saffron, with a dash of boiling water over it (I do this in an egg-cup)
  • 75g coarsely grated cheese (I use a mild cheddar)

for the herby white sauce

  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 250ml veg stock
  • grating of fresh nutmeg
  • small bunch parsley, chopped
  • a bay leaf
  • zest of 1 un-waxed lemon

what to do:

1. First, make the mash potato topping. Place the potatoes in a large pan of cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes until cooked through.

2. Drain the potatoes and mash them finely (or if you have one, use a potato ricer to mince them. Mix in the milk and saffron and stir well, then add the egg yolks, butter and a small grating of nutmeg. Mix well, season to taste and set aside for later.

Using a potato ricer ensures super smooth mash with minimal effort!
Using a potato ricer ensures super smooth mash with minimal effort!
Egg Yolks in the Mash Potato
Egg Yolks in the Mash Potato for added richness

3. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4. Place 400ml milk into a saucepan and bring to a very gentle simmer. Add the chunks of fish (but not the king prawns) and slowly poach for 3 minutes. Then remove the fish from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside, reserve the milk in the pan.

4. To make the herb sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute or so, keeping an eye it doesn’t catch or burn.

5. Add half (200ml) of the reserved poaching milk and whisk well. Stir in the veg stock, a grate of nutmeg, the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and black pepper.

6. Cook the sauce on a low heat until it thickens, then remove from the heat, mix in the parsley and the lemon zest.

7. Gently fold in the poached fish and king prawns, then pour the mixture into a oven-proof baking dish that can comfortably serve 4 people.

Fish Pie filling, with creamy herb sauce
Fish Pie filling, with creamy herb sauce

8. Dollop the mash potato on top and use a fork to make a criss-cross pattern, then sprinkle over the grated cheese.

9. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and piping hot. (Remember, if you’re not cooking the pie straight-away and are allowing to cool first, add 10 minutes to the cooking time).

Sophie's Ultimate Fish Pie Served with Buttered Greens
Sophie’s Ultimate Fish Pie Served with Buttered Greens

bon appetit, scranners! -x-

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Spiced Carrot & Parsnip Soup with Chilli & Garlic Tarka

Spiced Carrot & Parsnip Soup with Chilli and Yogurt Topper
Spiced Carrot & Parsnip Soup with Chilli and Garlic Tarka

It’s that time of year again when I usually switch from salads to soups as my main go-to for lunches at work. Most supermarkets offer great soups in a wide range of flavours, which are ideal if you’re pushed for time. However, they can end up costing a lot more, and sometimes contain stabilizers and other random ingredients that you don’t really want – so I highly recommend making your own. If you do a batch, it’s freezable so you can stock-up for the winter months. No brainer!

As you know, I love spice, so I wanted a soup that was warming, healthy and super-tasty. This soup has loads of carrots, so is high in vitamin-A and low in saturated fat; making it perfect for a little health-boost (always welcomed, especially at this time of year!)

I’ve been trying out a few different recipes recently, but none are as good as this one from Sainsbury’s Magazine. Hats off to cook Tamsin Burnett-Hall (twitter: @cooksewgrow) who created this recipe, it truly is delicious and has been perfectly crafted for full-on flavour without overloading on calories. The soup topping, tarka, is a mix of spices fried in oil until fragrant, then added just before serving. It’s what makes this soup extra special, perfect for lunch in the week (just take the tarka in a little separate tub), or ideal for a starter if you have people round for dinner.

The original recipe makes 8 portions, but my casserole dish only has room for 6, so I have adapted the recipe slightly to make 6 hearty portions instead. In total it takes around 50 minutes to make from start to finish.

what you need:

for the soup

  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 650g carrots
  • 350g parsnips
  • 1 tsp grated root ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 litre good quality veg stock

for the tarka

  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp shredded root ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
  • 1-2 red chillies, de-seeded and finely sliced
  • 1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 6 tbsp low-fat natural yogurt
  • handful of freshly chopped coriander

what to do:

1. For the soup, heat the oil in a large saucepan or casserole dish, add the onion and cook for about 8 minutes until softened but still pale. Meanwhile, scrub (no need to peel), trim and chop the carrots and parsnips into 2 cm chunks.

2. Add the ginger and spices to the onion and cook for 1 minute until fragrant, then add the carrots and parsnips and mix to coat them in the spices.

3. Pour in the veg stock, season and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Spiced Carrot & Parsnip Soup with Chilli and Yogurt Topper
Let the spiced veggies simmer in the pot until tender, ready to be liquidised.

4. Blend the soup in a liquidiser or using a hand blender until smooth.

5. For the tarka, heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat and fry the ginger, garlic, chilli and mustard seeds for 1-2 minutes, until the seeds start popping and the garlic begins to change colour.

6. Ladle the soup into cups or bowls and swirl in a spoonful of natural yogurt and a few bits of coriander. Sprinkle over the chilli and garlic topper just before serving and enjoy -x-

Spiced Carrot & Parsnip Soup with Chilli and Yogurt Topper
Spiced Carrot & Parsnip Soup with Chilli and Garlic Tarka

Bistro 1847, Manchester

Bistro 1847, Manchester: Amazing food, super-cool decor, warm & intimate atmosphere
Bistro 1847, Manchester: Amazing food, super-cool decor, warm & intimate atmosphere

To sum it up, Bistro 1847 is a true delight. It’s modern, yet warm, friendly, intimate… and the menu pretty much speaks for itself – culinary vegetarian innovation served in an ambient, super-cool setting. I even took away some decor tips for my new house!

That aside, it’s the menu options that truly are a breath of fresh air. You can either choose a ‘Taste of 1847′ – the perfect introduction to Bistro’s most popular and distinctive dishes, offered as a set menu (there is a 5 course and a 7 course option). This menu showcases the chefs’ pinnacle dishes, and effectively means the ‘foodies’ of Bistro 1847 have done the hard work for you, making this menu choice a ‘tricky decision‘-free dining experience. The most difficult choice you’ll have to make is which scrumptious cocktail to start with 🙂

The second menu option is to ‘Graze, Share and Explore’ – pretty much what it says on the tin. This menu features a range of smaller tapas-style dishes, which are all ordered at once, and arrive when they are ready. In my experience, this is similar to the ‘wagamama’ style of dining, it’s more informal; dishes arrive when ready, so not necessarily all at the same time. I love the element of surprise behind this modern style of dining, and these guys really do it well. I’d say this is the perfect option for a group of friends, who want to wine, dine and chatter – whilst sharing a varied feast of delicious small plates. Just one tip: order extra beer-battered halloumi, as you may not be as inclined to share this one!

His & Hers Cocktails - the Maple & Orange 'Old Fashioned' and the 'Bistro Bastillia'
His & Hers Cocktails – the Maple & Orange ‘Old Fashioned’ and the ‘Bistro Bastillia’

I am a big believer that we eat with our eyes, as well as our taste-buds, and these guys have both presentation and taste down to a fine art. I took some foodie snaps of our dishes from their ‘Taste of 1847’ menu, for you to feast your eyes upon:

Perfectly bite-sized spelt & rye crispbread, baba ghanoush (aubergine dip) with pomegranate seeds
Spelt & rye crisp bread, baba ghanoush with pomegranate seeds

Baba Ghanoush is an aubergine based ‘dip,’ which is served here on perfectly bite-sized pieces of crisp bread. It was nice to start with informal ‘finger-food,’ which tastes amazing and looks great too.

Beer-battered halloumi, seashore herbs & plants, mushy pea emulsion, smoked lemon curd & gin pickled shallots
Beer-battered halloumi, seashore herbs & plants, mushy pea emulsion, smoked
lemon curd & gin pickled shallots

This was the second course, I was told by Manager Rebecca that this is one of their most popular dishes, and I can see why. I have never tasted halloumi like it. Often dubbed ‘the squeaky cheese’ for its rubbery texture (as so many people over-cook it), this version was spongy, yet firm and almost had a meaty-texture to it. I wouldn’t hesitate to say it was cooked to perfection, and accompaniments compliment it so well. Hats off to the chef!

Heritage carrot, farmhouse curds, pearl barley, wilted cavolo nero, herbs, flowers & carrot top oil
Heritage carrot, farmhouse curds, pearl barley, wilted cavolo nero, herbs,
flowers & carrot top oil

This is a risotto style dish using barley instead of rice, which makes it lighter, fitting well with the two different menu options. The flavours are delicate and the presentation super-pretty, a highly seasonal dish using locally sourced heritage carrots. Yummy.

Chocolate, lime & sea salt brownie drizzled with coconut cream
Chocolate, lime & sea salt brownie drizzled with coconut cream

I think this photo speaks volumes to be honest. Chocolate brownie is the ultimate pud, and this one was nothing-short of heavenly.  Tasty, delicate hints of additional flavours from the sea salt, lime and coconut cream give this pud an elegant, more ‘grown-up’ feel, which I liked a lot.

Petit fours and tea or coffee's to finish (these ones were vegan chocolate truffles!)
Petit fours and tea or coffee’s to finish (these ones were vegan chocolate truffles!)

To finish, a choice of tea or coffee with petit fours. A great way to finish this wonderful, distinctive dining experience. I shall definitely be back for more, hopefully next time to Graze & Share with a few close friends, both veggies and non-veggies! If you’re even slightly curious, I urge you to try it as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Featured here is just a snippet of their wonderful menu, a full copy of which is here: bistro1847.com/menus/ManchesterAutumn.pdf

If you want to find out more about Bistro 1847, their website is: bistro1847.com, and they are located:

58 Mosley Street
(Entrance on Booth St)
Manchester
M2 3HZ

0161 236 1811
bdm@bistro1847.co.uk