I did a REALLY stupid thing yesterday.
After a rare shopping expedition to Sainsburys, instead of my usual, closer Tesco, I left my hand bag hanging on the trolley when I left it at the trolley park. I’d been home an hour, and had unpacked all the shopping before I realised what a muppet I’d been.
I phoned the store straight away and the bag had been handed in and was waiting for me at customer service, so I went back to retrieve it. I was amazed that everything was still in it, from my cuter-than-a-button lego notebook (seriously it is like a great big piece of your favourite lego and you can write in it) to my mobile phone (OK, it’s just confirmation that my phone is a piece of shit) and my purse with all its cards in it. Thanks Sainsburys customer, I think I love you. And I will forward the good karma to someone else.
I was determined to stick to my shopping list yesterday. I have a habit of going off-piste in a supermarket, but one of my aims for this year is to get better at planning and sticking to those plans, and not just in relation to supermarket shopping.
But I like seeing what is fresh, and seasonal when I shop. And I can easily be seduced by a bargain, especially if it’s in the ballpark of the list. So, fish was on the list. I want to eat more fish this year (see, I should just write a proper list shouldn’t I of all the things I want to achieve this year?).
And the fish pie mix was on special – half price, so I bought 300g of fish pie mix. And a bag of mussels. Mussels will be eaten today. They weren’t on the list, but trying new recipes is, so that’s ok! The fish was yesterday’s supper – not a fish pie as such though, because the potatoes I’ve got don’t mash well. I know, why do I have a bag of new potatoes at this time of year? But I do, and they are lovely just boiled, but not so good any other way.
Anyway, this is what I did.
300g mixed fish, cut into large cubes
knobs of butter
a TBsp or so of flour
about 1/2 pint of milk
about 4 TBsp double cream (optional – only used as there was some in the fridge which needed to be used)
a fish stock cube (or a veg one, or just use salt and pepper to taste)
a tsp dijon mustard
a few threads of saffron (again, optional, but I had some in the cupboard)
1/2 cup of fresh breadcrumbs
about 2 TBsp grated strong cheddar or other strong-flavoured hard cheese
Gas Mark 7 or 8
If you’re having potatoes with this, prepare them first, and put them in a pan of water. If you’re a quick cook then start boiling them now, before you start the fish gratin, otherwise put them on to boil once you are half way through.
- Melt a knob of butter in a pan over a medium-low heat
- Slice the leeks down their length and then cut them into half moon slices and gently cook them in the butter till they are soft, but not browned
- Tip the leeks into a gratin dish and spread over the base
- Put the saffron fronds into a wee cup or dish and cover with a wee bit of hot water, from the tap is fine
- Add another knob of butter to the pan the leeks were in and melt it
- Stir in some flour to make a roux
- Add the milk, bit by bit, stirring all the while so it doesn’t go lumpy. I added some hot water from the potato pot at this point. You’re looking for a sauce that easily coats the back of the wooden spoon – but if it’s too thick, just add more water/milk.
- Stir in the fish stock cube, the mustard and the saffron water. Stir to make sure the fish stock cube is melted in properly and then add the cream
- Add the fish to the sauce and gently stir together
- Pour the fish mix on top of the leeks
- Sprinkle breadcrumbs and cheese on top and put in a hot oven
- Cook till it’s bubbling and the top is crispy crunchy and a caramel brown colour. Mine was in for about 15 mins, but it could be in longer at a lower temp if it suited your plans better.
This was served with boiled potatoes and brussels sprouts. Now, I never used to be a fan of brussels sprouts, but the man is and so I’ve discovered various ways to make them scrumptious and my vegetable of choice! Oh yes, not just leftovers, I choose to buy and cook them!
Brussels sprouts with chestnuts
About 7 brussels sprouts per person
a knob of butter
A few roasted chestnuts
- Prepare the sprouts by chopping off their ends and the very outer leaves. You don’t need to do anything else, no crosses in their bottoms are necessary, but if this is your traditional way of doing them, feel free to indulge
- Put them in a pan so they form a single layer on the bottom of the pan and add about 1/4 cup of water (this was for two people, you’ll need more if there are more sprouts in a bigger pan I suppose). I use enough that I think will have all but disappeared in about 8 minutes of boiling (this recipe is an art, not a science.. or it is the way I’m writing it. I guess I could be more scientific about it if I really tried but for now this is all you’re getting I’m afraid)
- Put the lid on the pan and bring to the boil. Once it’s boiling, sit the lid on the edge of the pan, so it’s covering the pan but let’s a little steam out. Jiggle them around from time to time. If you run out of water, add some more hot from a kettle
- Once they look cooked (about 7-8 minutes I think) and there’s not much water left at all, add a knob of butter to the pan and jiggle them around again.
- Then crumble in the roasted chestnuts, and jiggle around some more over the heat
You may have noticed I don’t add salt to many things as I go along. I used to, but a few years ago tried to cut down on salt intake when my blood pressure was slightly higher than was desirable. I stopped adding salt to pans of boiling water – pasta, potatoes, vegetables, rice… and I discovered that after the first few days none of them needed it, or not in the blanket coverage way I used to add salt. I now occasionally add salt at the end, when I taste it and think it needs some, but more often than not I don’t. I probably wouldn’t get anywhere on Masterchef but my blood pressure is fine.
- Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Cream (thecooksnextdoor.com)