Sunday, 16 January 2011

Parsleyed Fish Gratin

Sarah at Maison Cupcake has started a new Blog event called 'Forever Nigella'. The idea is we cook a dish from one of Nigella Lawson's books every month. This is not difficult as I have all of her books. A great idea Sarah and thank you for organising.

I chose Parsleyed Fish Gratin from Nigella Christmas. It is a regular in my house. A very easy fish pie which saves all the mashing of potatoes and can be made in advance. It is a tasty everyday dish but would also grace  a table for guests as it is just so pretty

I have made a few changes to the recipe. Nothing new in that as I am always fiddling. There is not one thing wrong with the original but I have just added a couple of things which I prefer or are just more convenient. I added salmon to the fish mix as I like the flavour. It also adds an attractive colour and makes it more pleasing to the eye.
I use semi skimmed milk for the sauce rather than full fat for the simple reason it's what I have in the house.
I add onions pepper corns and bay leaves to the milk the night before making (if I am organised enough) as it does give the sauce a lovely flavour. I always do this with any roux sauce. Well worth it.
 I also use pale sherry rather than vermouth as I have a couple of huge bottles to use up and I do like the flavour in cooking. It works very well. So because of these changes I get to print the recipe.

Serves 6

Parsleyed Fish Gratin

For the Milk Infusion

One raw onion peeled and quartered
About twelve black pepercorns
Two bay leaves ripped

 For the Sauce

50gms/2oz butter
50gms/20z flour
1x15ml tablespoon pale sherry vermouth or white wine
1/4 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
1/2 teasp maldon salt or 1/4 teasp table salt
1/4 teasp Dijon mustard
350 mls/12 fluid oz  milk
1 1/2 15 ml tablespoons finely chopped chives or 1 spring onion finely chopped
75 gms/3 oz chopped parsley

For the Fish Mix and Potato Topping

2 medium sized (400gms/14oz total) baking potatoes, unpeeled
One Kilo/2.2 lbs of fish to include salmon, white fish fillet and smoked cod or haddock

For the Glaze
1 teasp garlic oil
25gms/1oz butter
Good grinding of black pepper
A little dried parsley


Add the onion, black peppercorns and bay leaves to the milk and leave to soak overnight or for a few hours.then strain to use with the sauce.

Make a white sauce by first melting the butter in a large saucepan and then addi the flour and stir for a minute or so.
Then off the heat whisk in the sherry/vermouth/wine, mace/nutmeg, salt and mustard.

Next whisk in the milk and put the pan back on the heat continuing to whisk the sauce as it thickens. Once the sauce appears to be getting thicker, keep cooking it for a further 3 minutes until it becomes very thick.

Take it off the heat and stir in the chives and parsley then decant into your gratin dish (mine is a round shallow casserole about 26cm x5cm/10 inches x inches)

Once cool you can leave this dish covered in the fridge overnight or up to three days.

When ready to cook preheat your oven 200.C/400.F/Gas 6. and place a baking sheet in . Take your gratin dish out of the fridge and uncover it.

Slice the unpeeled potatoes as thin as you possibly can.

Scissor or cut all the  fish into large bite-sized pieces and mix into the parsley sauce

Layer the potatoes in concentric circles over the fish and parsley sauce overlapping half way across each potato slice as you go around the dish.

Melt the garlic oil and butter in a small pan or in a dish in the microwave, stir in a little dried parsley then paint the circles of potato with this mixture

Grind some fresh black pepper over the top and place in the oven to cook for 50-60 minutes. The top should be golden and the underneath of the gratin bubbling

Friday, 14 January 2011

Chocolate Prune Bars

This month's challenge is from Chele at  The Chocolate Teapot. The monthly challenge is always chocolate but we are given another ingredient and have to make/bake something that includes the two. This month's ingredient to add to the chocolate was leftovers from our pantries. I chose prunes as I had half a bag lurking from Christmas. For once I am on time. Last month I didn't manage at all because of swine flue. Well they do say the world loves a trier. So Ladies and Gentlemen without further ado I present  
                          Chocolate Prune Bars

It is quite a dense but very moist cake. I was uncertain as to what what the flavour would be like but I have to tell you it is amazing. It actually tastes better if you can keep your hands off  it for a couple of days. It is grand left plain but covering it in Chocolate ganache takes it to a different level.


250g /9 oz Butter or Margarine

250g /9oz Dark brown sugar

200g /7oz S.R Flour plus 1 teaspoon of baking powder or plain flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder (sifted)

50 g / 2oz cocoa powder

3 Eggs (beaten)

250 g 9oz dried pitted prunes

250mls strong coffee

a little water or fruit juice


Pre Heat your oven to 180.C/160.C Fan/400.F/Gas 6 

Place the prunes in a medium saucepan with the coffee and simmer for ten minutes. 

Set to the side and allow to cool a little then whizz in the food processor or puree with a stick blender. If the mixture is very thick add a little water or fruit juice to loosen.

Grease and line a shallow baking tray 24 cms x 33 cms/ 13 inches x 9 1/2 inches.

Leave an over hang lengthwise of your lining paper so the cake can be removed from the tin easily.

Melt butter in microwave on 50% power or in a large saucepan on the hob.

Stir in sugar and prune mixture then the flour and cocoa powder, add the eggs,  stirring well. A whisk is good.

Pour into your prepared tin and bake for approx 20 - 30 minutes until the cake is springy to touch.

Leave in the tin until cold before removing then slice into bars.

Could I push my luck  here and say it could count towards your five a day.

Thank you Chele for this month's challenge

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Potato Wheaten Bread

I love all the local (Irish)  breads. From those made on the griddle  wheaten and soda farls, potato bread and pancakes to the oven soda and wheaten (brown soda) bread. I am a great fan of potato bread, called lovingly by locals as"Tatie Bread", which is a flat unleavened bread made with potato and flour. I got to wondering what it would be like to combine the potato with the oven soda and wheaten. Naturally I had to give it a go.

I made two versions One Wheaten Potato loaf (top) and the other my hubby has called the Ulster Fry loaf as the flavours are just like our traditional Ulster Breakfast Fry in a slice. They were both a great success I have to report. At their best straight from the oven and if any left after a day or two, just heaven toasted with lots of butter. Well I didn't say they were healthy did I?

Wheaten Potato


500 gms/ 1lb 2 oz Wholemeal/whole wheat flour
250 gms/9 oz approximately of cooked mashed potato
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 Teaspoons Cream of Tartar
1 teasp of salt
300mls milk
1 egg beaten
50gms/2 oz butter chopped.


Pre heat oven to 200.C/180.C fan/400.F/Gas6

Put the potatoes into a large jug and gradually beat in the milk until you get a mixture resembling wall paper paste.
Tip in most of the egg reserving a little for glazing.
Sift the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt into a large bowl
Rub in the butter with your finger tips
Add the milk and potato mixture and stir until you have a soft dough.
Empty onto a floured work top and knead gently to shape with well floured hands as  it is a a sticky mixture. The potatoes make it so.
I bake mine in a well buttered 7 inch brownie pan but you could use a round cake pan
Slash a cross on the top of the dough
Glaze with the remaining egg
Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

For the Ulster Fry Bread replace the wholemeal flour with plain /all purpose flour and add two or three pieces of finely chopped fried smoked bacon  and two finely chopped scallions/spring onions to the mix. Omit the salt as the bacon adds enough.


I have given the method by hand but I make this in the Food Processor which makes life a lot quicker,easier and less sticky . Just whizz the dry ingredients then whizz in the chopped butter then add the milk mixture and whizz again.

If you don't have cream of tartar use buttermilk or milk soured with lemon juice as the bicarbonate of soda needs the acid.

For those of you who have never seen an Ulster Fry this is it. Not my photo as I usually only make a 'fry' when we have guests and a delay would not be tolerated. I wouldn't take the risk.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Lamb,Pear and Cranberry Pie (without the pie)

On Violet's Pantry, our members had the privilege of testing some of Lotte Duncan's recipes for her new book Lotte's Country Kitchen which was published last year. The recipes we helped with were wonderful and it was great fun trying them out. I am the proud owner of her book and it is so pretty I am afraid to get a splat of goo on it. It is one of the best cookery books I own.. It does not stop at beautifully laid out pages and stunning photographs. The recipes are seasonal and the chapters laid out monthly so it is very easy to find something that suits the time of year. All are very homely recipes.No complexity involved but Lotte has managed to capture what every home cook wants, lots of flavour and beautiful presentation but as well s being homely everyday fare for the family her dishes would grace a dinner party table perfectly indeed the quantities are mostly for 6-8 people but easily adjusted for smaller amounts. This recipe was for a pie but I just couldn't be bothered making the pastry. The mix of fruit meat and veg is perfect with just the right amount of sweetness and sharpness. A real keeper. If you have a few cranberries still lying around I would recommend this dish. I served it with fluffy creamed potatoes. Delicious.

  • Preparation time 30 mins
  • Cooking time 120 mins
  • Serves 6 people


  • 2 tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • 900 g (31.7oz) Leg of lamb, diced and trimmed of fat
  • 25 g (0.9oz) Butter
  • 1 Large onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 Large carrots, cut into 2.5cm/1inch chunks
  • 1 tbsp Soft brown sugar
  • 2.5 tbsp Plain flour
  • 570 ml (20.1fl oz) Lamb or beef stock
  • 150 ml (5.3fl oz) Red wine
  • 2 tbsp Chopped fresh parsley
  • 0.5 tsp Dried thyme
  • 1 Fresh bay leaf
  • 1 Small sprig of rosemary
  • 2 Large pears, peeled, cored and cut into chunks the same size as the lamb
  • 110 g (3.9oz) Fresh cranberries
  • 1 Small orange – grated zest and juice
  • 0.5 tbsp Clear honey or quince jelly
  • 1 tbsp Chopped fresh mint
  • 1 Pinch of salt
  • 1 Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 225 g (7.9oz) Self-raising flour - For the Suet crust pastry
  • 2 tsp Dried thyme - For the Suet crust pastry
  • 2 tsp English mustard powder - For the Suet crust pastry
  • 110 g (3.9oz) Shredded suet flour for dusting - For the Suet crust pastry
  • 1 Egg, beaten - For the Suet crust pastry 


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C fan oven, 140°C gas mark 3. Aga 4/3-door grid shelf on floor of baking oven Aga 2- door Grid shelf on floor of roasting oven with cold plain shelf on third runners.
  2. Heat 1 table spoon of oil in a large flameproof casserole dish and brown the pieces of lamb a few at a time. When each piece of meat is sufficiently browned, remove it using a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate. You might need to add another tablespoon of oil to brown all the meat.
  3. Now add the butter, onion, carrots and brown sugar to the dish and fry them gently until they are beginning to soften and caramelise due to the sugar. You don’t want the sugar to burn, so keep the heat low. It just makes the vegetables sweeter and gives a lovely colour to the final dish.
  4. Stir in the flour and pour over the stock and wine. Bring up to boiling point, return the lamb to the dish with the parsley, thyme, bay leaf and rosemary. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  5. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove and then add the pears, cranberries and orange zest and juice. Cook for another 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the honey or quince jelly.
  6. Now pour into 1.4 litre/ 2½ pint pie dish and set aside to cool a little.
  7. Increase the oven temperature to 190°C fan oven, 170°C/ gas mark 5. Aga 4/3-door Top of baking oven. Aga 2-door Grid shelf on floor of roasting oven.
  8. Make the pastry just before you need it because just like dumplings, when you add a liquid to self-raising flour it starts the rising process and you need to cook it straight away to keep the pastry light. If you leave the pastry hanging around, it will be heavy and tough. Sieve the flour into a medium mixing bowl and add the thyme, mustard powder and a pinch of salt. Stir in the suet and mix with approximately 150ml/5fl oz cold water to make a soft dough. Turn onto a floured board and knead until smooth.
  9. Now roll out the pastry, bid enough to cover your pie dish with a little overhang. Moisten the rim of the dish with some water and position the pastry on the top and press it over the edge of the dish, and tuck it slightly under. It doesn’t matter if the edges are thick and pleated, this is a very rustic pie and the rougher the better!
  10. Make a slit in the middle to let the steam escape during cooking and brush all over with the beaten Egg to give a rich colour to the cooking pastry. Stand the pie on the baking sheet and bake until the Pastry is crisp and golden brown.
  11. Slice the pie and serve with steamed runner beans, tossed in butter and plenty of seasoning.