A chef’s greatest asset is their insecurity, their need to please. A good chef is generous, giving- of time and ingredients. I try my best to only ever send out plates of food that would make me feel happy, should I be the recipient. Most importantly I want people that I cook for to like me a little bit. And to say nice things about my food. And ANY chef that says otherwise, is a damnable liar and a cad. And I’m one of the more normal ones, with previous careers and qualifications and things. And friends. Some Chefs go into a big hotel kitchen when they are 15, are brutalised by a moustachioed German (all characters are fictitious and any resemblance to Anton Edelmann is coincidental), smoke 50 Marlborough reds and drink a litre of cooking brandy per day and then kill cats, mug Chelsea pensioners and burn old Gurkhas. I am not even really a Chef- if you stuck me in a professional restaurant kitchen I wouldn’t last 5 minutes. Life is too short to spend 18 hours being shouted at and scalded by ginger douche bags with OCD (all characters are fictitious and any resemblance to Tom Aikens is coincidental). I just like cooking. Close friends of mine call me a cook rather than a chef to wind me up- but I like being a cook- it is hearty and warming. Chefs are clinical and psychotic. Cooking is like a hug. And it makes me more popular. I am lucky that I can eke out a living from cooking food having not spent 2 years at a catering college in Westminster learning how to mainline crack. I didn’t even spend 3 years separating prawns from their faeces in some poncified temple to fine dining, whose menu is only written in lower case, and which by now is sending out emails offering 15 courses for sixpence. I just cooked an omelette one day when I was seven, spent 18 years in education, did 12 random jobs and then told a load of old porkies on my CV to get a job cooking on a yacht.
Anyway…. I started talking about generosity, I was reading this weeks restaurant review by Jay Rayner in the Observer and he mentioned how good Richard Corrigan’s fish pie was. Because of his ‘overly developed instinct to feed’ Thats brilliant isn’t it? What a great epitaph that would be. Generosity is the key to fish pie- think about the FISH IN BOLD UPPER CASE and the pie in little baby letters. This is my recipe. If you cook this for someone, they will like you more and quite possibly think you rather dishy/coquettish. Let me know how it goes.
- 2 fillets of pollack (which I see has been renamed ‘Colin’. Desist.)
- 1 fillet of undyed smoked haddock (Not the luminous yellow crap that is always (ALWAYS!) on sale at small Tesco shops attached to garage fore courts.)
- 12 big raw prawns
- 6 scallops
- 1¼ pints milk
- 1 medium onion cut in quarters
- 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- bunch fresh parsley
- a few peppercorns
- 1kg Maris Pipers
- 135g butter, plus extra to grease the dish and dot on top of the pie
- 75g plain flour
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Put all the fish (not prawns or scallops) in a saucepan. Add the milk, onion, celery, bay leaf, a couple of stalks of parsley and the peppercorns.
- Place the pan on a low heat and bring to simmer- take off heat and leave aside
- Peel the potatoes, cut into chunks and put them in a large pan. Cover with water and bring to boil. Lower the heat and cook till they split when you stick a knife in.
- Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan and mash them, adding 60g of the butter, cut into cubes, loads of butter (about 70 g) and 4 tablespoons of the fishy milk.
- Remove the fish pieces and take off any skin and manky bits. Flake into largish chunks. Pour milk through a sieve into a jug and discard bay/onion etc.
- Add remaining butter to a lean sauce pan and melt over low/medium heat. start adding the flour , mixing in until paste like. Cook out for a five minutes so it smells a bit like biscuits.
- Pour in the fishy milk bit by bit (a quarter at a time) until you have a thick creamy sauce. Add the juice of half a lemon if you like and plenty of salt and pepper. Let it simmer gently for 2 minutes- do not let it burn at this stage.
- Add the scallops, prawns, parsley and fish to the sauce and cook gently for 5 minutes. Taste and season if necessary.
- Consider adding sliced boiled eggs.
- For the love of all that is decent and true, don’t.
- Or Peas
- Pour all the fishy bechamel (for, get you, that is what you have made) into a pie dish and evenly distribute potato over filling, plugging all the gaps.
- consider topping with cheese.
- Don’t. Just fork it prettily and chuck on some more butter. Cook for about 30 minutes or until it looks nice and golden.
- NOW cook some peas and have them all nice and bright and green and buttery on the side.