Heston Blumenthal’s Fish Pie

Fish Pie Heston BlumenthalI was a little shocked to discover that it is actually over 2 years since I hosted an Unseen Restaurant. I love these events (and I hope my guests do too) but, you know, running a café left me with little time to do anything else for a while there. So, now that I have time on my hands again, I dusted off the Rayburn, put out the word and planned an event.

I wanted to do a fish themed dinner and so started browsing my book shelves.

Now, about 18 months ago, Martin and I celebrated our 30th Wedding Anniversary in magnificent style by eating at The Fat Duck; home of the legendary Heston Blumethal. I can honestly say that it was not only the best meal I have ever eaten, but also the best date night my lovely husband and I have ever had together. The restaurant, the amazing staff, the sheer theatre of it all, were everything we had hoped for and more. It’s a good job too as we ate there instead of having a holiday that year but it was definitely worth it.

To help me remember (as if I could possibly forget) Martin also bought me a copy of Heston’s lovely recipe book: Heston Blumenthal at Home. This book is well thumbed and its pages are stuck together with drool but I have never actually cooked from it. I know! Ridiculous isn’t it? But there you go – I have recipe books I use and recipe books I read – but no longer, it seems.

Heston at Home

If my lovely friends are prepared to part with money to eat at my house (profits this time went to our local food bank) then they deserve the very best I can give them. I sent out the simple-sounding menu (smoked salmon with pickled cucumber, fish pie and chocolate tart) without telling them I was using Heston’s recipes.  And they came anyway. (I will post the starter and dessert recipes at a later date).

Now, I live in Cornwall.  On the coast.  I can make fish pie. My guests can all make fish pie. It is an average mid-week dinner. It is on the menu at each of the 5 pubs in the village so this had to be something special.

It was.

I have never, in my life, made a fish pie which has 61 ingredients! OK, so I counted some of them more than once; onions for example appear in the sauce and the stock but I don’t think it is too much of an exaggeration.

Nor have I ever made a fish pie with 8 separate elements but, as Mr. Blumenthal points out, cooking everything together is never going to suit all the component parts and will muddy the flavours. I paraphrased wildly there but suffice to say this is not your average Wednesday night pie.

Please don’t let this put you off. Ok, so it took me all day to produce the three courses but every process was a joy to do and the finished pie was a joy to eat. I have never made a foam before, I have never had to go to a garage to buy ingredients before (de-ionised water; it is usually used for topping up car batteries) and I have never bought soya lecithin or agar-agar flakes before but everything is in there for a good reason – and that reason is either flavour or texture – both of which are essential if you want to enjoy your food.

So, enough of the wittering; this is how I made Heston Blumenthal’s fish pie. I hope you try it too.

The key to this pie is to work methodically. The recipe is nowhere near as daunting if you work through it a stage at a time. You can even make each of the component parts the day before then all you have to do, when you are ready, is assemble, heat and eat.

First, cure the salmon because it needs to rest in the fridge for 6 hours. This process intensifies the flavour and completely changes the texture of the fish by removing moisture.

Make the fish stock next. You will need it to make the sauce and the foam. Unlike a meat stock, which requires long, slow cooking, the key to a good fish stock is to cook it quickly to keep the flavours fresh.

I have included the recipe for Heston’s fish stock just as he made it but I actually made a couple of changes: I left out the mussels because one of my guests was allergic to shellfish and I don’t actually own a pressure cooker so I made it in a heavy based saucepan with a tight fitting lid. It worked out fine.  Ask your fish monger for fish bones. We don’t have a fish monger close by any more (I know, it’s criminal isn’t it) and when I asked at a supermarket fish counter they looked at me like I was mad. I had to travel. Find someone who knows what they are doing and maybe ask in advance.

If you really don’t want to go to this much trouble there are simpler fish stock recipes around (just Google them) or you could even buy your fish stock ready made but I challenge you, just once, to go the extra mile and try this out. It is worth it. Make extra and freeze it so that next time you can take the easy route without compromising on flavour.

Next, make the confit onions. It’s a simple job but when it is done it is done and they taste divine.

The next step is to make the sauce. This is the most important component of the dish. This is the power house of flavour so take your time and make it count. I have never thickened a sauce with agar-agar before. When I whisked it into the hot sauce I expected it to thicken there and then but it didn’t. I also thought it looked pretty smooth so I decided I probably wouldn’t blitz it and strain it. Wrong! Once the sauce had cooled it actually set, kind of like a savoury panna cotta. I blitzed and strained it and promised never to doubt Heston again. It makes an incredibly smooth textured sauce and I will be using agar-agar lots in future.

Next up is the sea foam. I realise for some of you that this will be a step too far but hear me out. It is a bit of a faff but what you are trying to create is a taste of the sea and a bit of theatre. This is not a sauce that you would want to eat much of but just a dribble of foam adds fun to the dish and a really curious flavour; salty and earthy, it really does seem to mark the point where sea meets land.  For me it was worth it just to see the looks on my guests’ faces. If you can’t be bothered with the foam, leave it out.  You will still have an amazing fish pie but you will always wonder what might have been.

The panko sand is fun too but, more than that, it adds a little crunch and texture to the smooth pommes puree.

The pommes puree itself was a revelation. I am a real mashed potato fan; to me it is the ultimate comfort food, but even I was a little shocked by the quantity of butter in it. I normally use a potato ricer but if you don’t have one you could just mash.  However, it IS worth the effort of pushing it through a sieve afterwards. This is the smoothest, creamiest mash you will ever taste. I don’t eat with my guests at the Unseen Restaurant (I am too busy cooking, serving and washing up) but I did eat a bowl of leftover mash for my lunch the next day and I don’t even feel guilty.

And finally, the finish. Use good quality un-dyed smoked haddock and that’s about all I have to say. Regular readers will know that I cook using a Rayburn and I don’t have a grill so, once the pie was assembled, I had to re-heat it in the oven. This was tricky as I wanted it to be hot but I didn’t want to overcook the fish or undo all the good that had been done by making all the component parts individually. The pie survived.

I actually made individual pies rather than one big one, partly so that everyone could have some foam and some panko (I was cooking for 12 people) and partly so I could leave prawns out of one for my allergic guest.

If you decide to make this please let me know how you get on. Have fun.

Heston Blumenthal at Home Fish Pie

Ingredients

The Cured Salmon
125g Salt
125g White Granulated Sugar
250g Salmon Fillet

Fish Stock
1.25 kg White Fish Bones
Groundnut or Grapeseed Oil
2 Medium Onions (peeled and sliced)
1 Large Carrot (peeled and thinly sliced
2-3 Sticks of Celery (finely sliced)
100g Fennel (finely sliced)
100g Button Mushrooms (finely sliced)
1 Clove of Garlic (finely sliced)
2 Medium Tomatoes (sliced)
180 ml Dry White Wine
75 ml Dry White Vermouth
500g Mussels
¼ tsp Saffron Strands
½ tsp Fennel Seeds
50g Flat Leaf Parsley
2 Sprigs of Thyme
12 Basil Leaves
6 Tarragon Leaves
4 Strips of Lemon Zest (removed with a peeler)

The Confit Onions
15 baby onions
Olive Oil

The Sauce
15g Unsalted Butter
2 Medium Onions (peeled and thinly sliced)
4 Cloves of Garlic (peeled and thinly sliced)
40 ml Dry White Wine
20 ml Dry White Vermouth
50g Smoked Haddock (undyed)
200 ml Fish Stock
125ml Whole Milk
125ml Double Cream
2 Tbsp Agar-Agar Flakes

The Sea Foam
10g Unsalted Butter
20g Peeled and finely sliced Shallot
1 Clove of Garlic (peeled and finely chopped)
10ml Dry White Vermouth
20ml Dry White Wine
200ml Fish Stock
400ml De-ionized Water
5g Dried Konbu Sheets
10g Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
2 Parsley Stalks
1 tsp Soya Lecithin

The Sand
Groundnut or Rapeseed Oil
150g Panko Crumbs

The Pomme Puree
1 kg Waxy Potatoes (peeled)
Salt
300g Unsalted Butter (diced)
240ml Whole Milk (warmed)
10g Horseradish Sauce
12 Drops Worcestershire Sauce
15g Wholegrain Mustard

The Finish
16 raw Peeled Prawns
250g Smoked Haddock (cut into 2cm pieces)
80g Frozen Peas (thawed)
5g Chives (chopped)
5g Parsley Leaves (chopped)
5g Tarragon Leaves (chopped)
Salt

Method

Cure the Salmon
Combine the salt and sugar in a bowl. Place half in the base of a shallow container and put the salmon on top. Cover with the remaining salt mixture and then with cling film and place in the fridge for 6 hours.

Make the Fish Stock
Chop the fish bones into small pieces and place them in a bowl of cold water. Leave them for 20 minutes. Drain the bones and pat dry on kitchen paper.
Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of oil. Fry the bones for a few minutes without colouring. Set aside.
Heat a thin layer of oil in the bottom of a pressure cooker. Add the onions, carrots, celery, fennel, mushrooms, garlic and tomatoes. Sweat over a low heat until soft – approx. 20 minutes.
Add the wine and vermouth and boil until the liquid has almost disappeared.
Add the fish bones, 1.5 litres of cold tap water and put the lid on the pressure cooker. Bring up to full pressure over a high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
Take the pressure cooker off the heat and leave to cool completely before removing the lid. Place the pan over a medium high heat and add the mussels, saffron, fennel seeds, herbs and lemon zest and heat until the mussels have all opened (approximately 5 minutes).
Leave to cool before straining through a sieve lined with 2 layers of wet muslin. Refrigerate or freeze for later use.

Make the Confit Onions
Trim the roots and peel the onions. Place them in a single layer in a saucepan and just cover them with olive oil. Place the pan over a medium heat and cook gently until the onions are soft and just turning golden.
Drain the onions and leave them to cool. When they are cool enough to handle cut them into halves and set aside until you are ready to assemble the pie.

Make the Sauce
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and sweat the onions and garlic until they become translucent (about 10 minutes). Deglaze the pan with the wine and vermouth and boil to reduce to a thin syrup.
Add the haddock, fish stock, milk and cream and bring to a simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes before straining into a clean pan without pushing through. Discard the onions and fish.
Add the agar-agar flakes to the liquid and bring it to a simmer over a medium heat. Allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes, whisking occasionally.
Allow to cool then blitz with a hand blender until smooth and pass through a sieve. Set aside until needed.

Make the Sea Foam
Heat the butter in a saucepan over a low-medium heat and add the shallot and garlic. Gently sweat for 4-5 minutes until translucent.
Add the vermouth and white wine and boil to reduce to a syrupy consistency.
Add the stock, water, konbu, dried shiitake, and parsley stalks and bring up to 65°C. Hold at this temperature for 30 minutes.
Pass the liquid through muslin and allow to cool. When cool skim off any solidified butter.

Make the Sand
Heat 5cm of oil in a small saucepan over a high heat to 180°C.
Add the panko crumbs and fry until golden brown. Strain the breadcrumbs through a sieve and drain onto kitchen paper.

Make the Pomme Puree
Bring a saucepan of (unsalted) water to 72°C over a medium heat. Cut the potatoes into even sized pieces and drop them into the water. Bring back to 72°C. Hold the potatoes at this temperature for 30 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.
After 30 minutes drain the potatoes and rinse under cold running water.
Bring a saucepan of fresh salted water to the boil and add the potatoes. Cook until extremely soft and falling apart.
Drain the potatoes and then return them to the pan over a very low heat to dry them out.
Put the potatoes through a ricer onto the butter in a bowl and mix together. Put this mixture through a sieve and then add milk and salt to taste. Stir in the mustard, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce.
Set aside.

To Finish and Serve
Pre-heat the grill.

Rinse the cured salmon thoroughly under cold running water and pat dry with kitchen roll. Cut into 2 cm pieces.
Cut the smoked haddock into 2cm pieces.

Heat the sauce in a large saucepan to a simmer and add the prawns; simmer until they are almost cooked (about 1 minute).

Add the cured salmon, smoked haddock, confit onions and peas. Stir in the chopped herbs and season to taste with salt. Warm the mixture through and spoon into a pie dish.

Top with the warm pommes puree and make a wave pattern if you want to. Place under the hot grill for 7-10 minutes until the potatoes begin to brown.

Meanwhile, gently reheat the sea foam mixture. Add the soya lecithin and blitz with a hand blender until light and frothy.

Top one end of the pie with the panko “sand” and spoon a line of foam over the edge of the breadcrumbs to simulate the tide meeting the beach.

I served it with a side of fresh steamed vegetables because I like to eat lots of veg with everything.  You might like to do the same.

French Fruit Tart

I love cooking at Easter, family and friends have time to sit and enjoy lingering over a meal and I have time to cook it.  Special occasions always call for a great dessert and this is one of my favourites.  Winter is gone and with it the need for hot, comforting puddings but it’s not yet time for light summer sorbets and ices – this tart bridges the gap nicely.  It is light enough to feel fresh and spring-like but still filling enough to be comforting.

You can use any fruit which is in season, strictly speaking it’s a bit early for strawberries but the warm March has put English strawberries in the shops earlier than ever so I decided to make the most of them.  They don’t taste as good as strawberries in June but they are still much better than imported fruits.

Need a shortcut?

You can use ready made pastry or even a pre-baked pastry case.  You can also use a good quality, fresh vanilla custard and thicken it with some whipped cream.  If you need more short cuts than that you’d better just buy a tart!

The Pastry

Ingredients

90g Cold Butter chopped into small pieces

65g Caster Sugar

3 Free-range Egg Yolks

200g Plain Flour

50g White Chocolate

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4

Rub the butter, flour and sugar together in a bowl until they resemble fine, sandy breadcrumbs then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, until you have a ball of soft, pliable dough.  Knead briefly until smooth.  Expect a much softer pastry than short crust.  You can do all of this in a food processor if you prefer.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and put it in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry and use it to line a buttered, 10” flan tin with a removable base.  Prick with a fork then cover the base with baking parchment and fill with baking beans (dried pulses will do if you don’t have baking beans.  Re-chill.  This will stop the pastry from shrinking too much when you bake it.

Place in the oven and bake blind for 20 minutes until the edges of the pastry are golden brown.  Remove the beans and baking parchment and return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes until the base is cooked through and golden.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

When completely cool brush the insides of the pastry case with a thin coating of melted white chocolate.  This helps to prevent it from going soggy when you add the filling.

Remove the tart from the flan case and place on a serving plate.

The Custard (Creme Patissiere)

Ingredients

100g Caster Sugar

4 Egg Yolks

25g Corn Flour

1 Vanilla Pod

350 ml of Whole Milk

Method

Put the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick and creamy then stir in the flour.

Slice down the side of the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife.  Put the pod and the seeds into a saucepan with the milk and bring it slowly just up to the boil.

Remove the vanilla pod and pour the milk onto the egg mixture, whisking all the time.

Return the mixture to the pan over a low-medium heat and stir continuously until it comes up to a gentle boil.   It has to boil to thicken but if it boils too vigorously you will get bits of scrambled egg in your custard.  Continue to cook, stirring all the time for 2 minutes or until it has thickened.

Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl, cover the top with cling film and leave to cool.   The cling film stops a skin from forming.

If it looks a little lumpy whisk it well as it cools, if this doesn’t resolve the problem push it through a sieve to remove any lasting lumps.

The Topping

Fruits of your choice

1 tablespoon Apricot Jam, warmed.

Assembling the Tart

When you are ready to serve the tart pour the custard into the tart base.  Arrange the fruit on top and brush with the warmed apricot jam to glaze the fruit and give your tart a nice shine.

Curry Goat

In some parts of the country you will be able to pick up goat meat with great ease, here in Cornwall it takes a bit more effort but my friendly local butcher tracked down a supplier and ordered some for me. If you can’t get, or don’t fancy, goat you can use lamb as a substitute in this recipe.

You can buy West Indian curry powder but it tastes better if you make your own so I have included the recipe I use. The goat is traditionally diced and cooked on the bone but I prefer to serve it without so I make a stock from the bone and cook the meat separately.

Ingredients

Curry Powder

2 tablespoons ground turmeric

1 tablespoon crushed dried chilli flakes

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds

1/2 tablespoon ground cloves

1/2 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Curry Goat

550g shoulder of Goat, diced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

140ml/5fl oz vegetable oil

4 tomatoes skinned and chopped

2 onions, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

Olive oil

Stock

A handful of fresh coriander

Method

Put the cumin, coriander, chilli flakes and mustard seeds into a frying pan and toast over a low heat until they start to release a wonderful aroma. Pound in a pestle and mortar until finely ground (or use a spice mill) and add to the ready ground spices.

Rub 3 tablespoons of the curry powder into the meat (store the rest in an airtight jar), sprinkle over the thyme, cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours (or overnight).

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F,Gas mark 2.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and brown the meat. Remove the meat from the pan and place it in a casserole dish. It’s best to do this in batches – if you overcrowd the pan the meat will stew rather than fry.

Soften the onions and garlic in a little olive oil and place in the casserole dish with the meat. Heat the stock to boiling point and pour over the goat meat, cover and place in the oven for 2 hours, until the meat is tender.

Remove the meat from the stock and keep warm, simmer the sauce till reduced by half, then return the meat to pan. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with rice and peas.

 

 

Rum and Raisin Ice Cream

Home made ice cream

Ingredients

115g/4oz raisins

115ml/4fl oz rum

8 free-range egg yolks

200g/7oz caster sugar

400ml/14fl oz full-fat milk

400ml/14fl oz double cream

Method

Put the rum and the raisins into a small pan and place on a low heat to warm. Remove from the heat and set aside for 15 minutes to cool and to allow the raisins to soak up lots of lovely rum.

Put the egg yolks and sugar into a bowl and whisk together until combined.

The egg whites can be used to make meringues (or an egg white omelette if you really must), alternatively they can be frozen until you are ready to use them).

Pour the milk into a pan and bring to the boil then pour the boiling milk onto the egg yolks and whisk well. Transfer the whole mixture back into the saucepan and return to the heat.

Add the cream, soaked raisins and any rum left in the pan and continue to cook, over a low heat, until thickened but do not boil otherwise your mixture will develop little flecks of scrambled egg (most unappetising).

Cool and then either transfer the custard to an ice cream machine to churn (follow the manufacturer’s instructions) or if, like me, you don’t have an ice cream maker, do it the old fashioned way:

Pour the mixture into a shallow plastic or stainless steel container and place it in the freezer. If your freezer is quite full it may help to put on a lid to prevent spillages or flavour contamination.

After 30 minutes or so return to the freezer and whisk the mixture taking care to blend in all the ice crystals – if necessary, use a spatula to scrape down the sides. Return the box to the freezer and repeat this process every 30 minutes or so (you might want to set a timer) until you have smooth frozen ice cream.

Take the ice cream out of the freezer and leave it in the fridge to soften 20 minutes before you want to eat it.