Avoca Fish Pie and a day off work.

The weather here has been terrible.  It hasn’t been very cold, but it’s been very dark and very very wet, it has felt almost like night time all day long.  Unusually however the weather gods decided to save up the sunshine for the weekend which was nice!  And even nicer it spilled over onto Monday which was a holiday (for some of us!).

I sit in my office today (Tuesday) and it’s grey, dull, and wet outsite, also our heating is broken so I’m freezing.

But the weekend was lovely, it was cold, bright, sunny and full of autumn colours.  Yesterday was 11th November and was a public  holiday in Belgium, although as many of my friends and loved ones work for one or other of the various European Instituions who do not have the day off it was a bit of an odd holiday!

I had a lovely day though, after a run in the morning, a bit of toast with the last remnants of Sylvia’s Ginger and Rhubarb Jam I went and met her for a coffee and then we took a stroll down to Bois de la Cambre where we walked for about 2 hours.

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After that we stopped in Cafe de la Presse for some lunch, which was lovely and warm and cosy.  We spotted a friend and his son strolling by so we strolled home with them.

By the time I got home the cold had run through me so no better way to warm up than spending some time in the kitchen.  My Mam had sent me this recipe the week before so I gave it a bash and it turned out very tasty!

Avoca Fish Pie
Serves 4 to 6

  • 300g cod fillet
  • 150g smoked halibut
  • 150g smoked makarel

(the original recipe called for 600g fish – I think you can probably use any combination – but smoked fish gives a really good flavour – I used the above combination because it’s what I had in the freezer)

  • Small glass dry white wine
  • 250 ml cream
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks celery
  • Approx 400-450ml of fish cooking liquid (milk)
  • roux  made with 50g flour and 50g butter
  • 1 lemon halved and zested
  • Tablespoon chopped parsley, stalks speerate
  • tablespoon of chopped dill (I didnt have this so used chives instead)
  • sea salt
  • freashly ground black pepper
  • 100g of grated mature cheddar cheese (optional)
  • creamy mash
Method
  1. Start by preparing the fish, remove the skin and all pin bones then dice into squares.
  2. Make the roux (melt butter and add flour and cook a little).
  3. Zest the lemon.
  4. Cut the grated lemon in half and place in a shallow saute type pan along with the diced fish, some of the parsley stalks, the white wine and just enough liquid to cover.  I used milk here – it worked out fine in the end though initially it looked a bit curdled probably because of the wine! I’d do the same again as the wine gave a lovely flavour but if you prefer you could either use water and wine to cook it in, or if using milk add the wine at a later stage while making the sauce.
  5. Simmer the fish gently for 6 – 8  minutes, no longer, dont worry if its not totally cooked it will be cooked in oven later.
  6. Using a slotted spoon gently remove the fish from the stock and place in an earthenware dish.
  7. Remove the lemon and parsley stalks from the stock and continue to simmer until it has reduced to around 125 ml if using stock.   ( I didn’t do this I just cooked fish in milk added parsley stalks then the lemon and removed them and used the milk for the roux) it was grand.
  8. Cook carrots and celery in a little water until al dente 6 to 8 minutes. Simmer liquid and allow to reduce.  Remove veg and add to fish, reserve the cooking liquid and add it to sauce later, to lighten the sauce if necessary.
  9. Place both types of stocks in a large saucepan and add the cream and lemon zest and heat gently.  Once the liquid is hot start whisking in the stock cook until sauce thickens.  Add the chopped parsley and chives. 
  10. Now pour the sauce over the fish and veg in the ovenproof dish mixing it gently between pieces of fish, sprinkle with the remaining herbs.   Sprinkle grated cheddar on top if using.
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  12. Then pipe on the mash.
  13. I cooked for 25 to 30 minutes at around 180degrees or until the mash is crisp and golden
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Mary’s Lasagne

Ok so you use the Bolognese from my previous post, plus the following…..

  • 1 ltr Milk
  • 60g butter
  • 150g flour
  • 1 Onion
  • Cloves
  • Peppercorns (whole)
  • Bayleaf
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese
  • Lasagne sheets
  • 1/2 teaspoon made mustard

Note – my beloved mother’s instructions on how to make this white sauce were quite vague. Below you have the measurements that the Stork Recipe Book recommends, and of course there are plenty of Roux/White sauce recipes available on the internet.  She literally just ‘throws it in’. Sigh.

Stork: 575 ml milk, 50g marg, 50g flour, 75g grated cheese (1/2 for top)

  1. Pierce the onion with the cloves, add to the milk with a few peppercorns and the bayleaf.  Bring to a gentle simmer and allow to infuse with flavour for a while – 10-20 mins
  2. Strain the milk and put it back on the hob, add the butter and flour, bring to the boil stirring continuously with a whisk, simmer for 2-3 mins until think and glossy
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  4. Stir in half the cheese and the mustard.
  5. Dip the lasagne sheets in boiled water to soften gently.
  6. Layer as follows: Lasagne sheet, bolognese sauce, lasagne sheet, cheese sauce, bolognese sauce, lasagne sheet, cheese sauce, cheese
  7. Bake at 190degrees for 30-40 minutes.

I stuck it in the freezer for a couple of weeks and cooked it yesterday – it was delish if I do say so myself!

next time I might use slightly more white sauce, it was prefect when just out of the oven but for reheating it got a bit dry.

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Mary’s Bolognese Sauce

It was my Mam’s birthday on 28th September so I took the trip back to Dublin for the occasion.

We had a lovely dinner out with the family, followed by a mini-pub crawl which included crashing my friend Michaela’s hen party, leading to an unfortunately unsuccessful search for a stripper and topped off by a birthday Jaegar-bomb bought by Eddie.

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Anyway, a good night was had by all, and after a walk on Sandymount strand to let Toby stretch his little dog legs and try to seduce some lady dogs (also unsuccessful) all traces of hangovers disappeared.  I made dinner on Sunday evening and in return, on Monday Mam kindly agreed to show me how to make lasagne.

Basically she makes a massive amount of Bolognese Sauce and uses half of it for the lasagne.  I mentioned before that there is alot of guess work in her cooking, including a certain amount of boiling over, forgetting about things etc etc, and yet somehow it all tastes delicious. It’s not fair.

That is why the below is a bit vague… but here it goes. I also include a photo from her old recipe books where the original recipe can be found, but this has of course been altered over the years…

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  • 2 Carrot
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Celery
  • 2 Garlic
  • Bacon/salami
  • Oregano
  • 5 Tin Tomato
  • Dash of Red wine
  • Tomato Puree
  • 800kg Mince

This made about 4 servings of Bolognese and 1 large lasagna – it is currently frozen so I’ll let you know how it tastes when it’s been cooked!

  1. Chop the carrot, onion, celery and garlic and gently saute with the bacon for a few minutes.
  2. Add the tins of tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer gently until the veg is tender.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar per tin of tomatoes
  3. Blend the sauce (or if you prefer, blend 1/2 the sauce so that it is still a bit chunky) using a hand blender.  Keep some aside to use in other dishes instead of plain tinned tomatoes if you have enough, I guess you can freeze it too!

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4. Meanwhile, fry the mince with some tomato puree and add to the sauce along with the red wine, salt and pepper.

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5. Simmer very gently for about an hour, don’t stir! Taste the sauce as you go and if necessary add a veg stock cube for extra flavour  (this is what I’m talking about with the vagueness….)

My first attempt was ok.

It’s hard to get good quality mince in Belgium, it’s usually pure beef (so no fat = not much flavour) or a mixture of beef and pork, so I’m sure with a good quality mince it would make the difference.

Also I think I added too many tins of tomatoes – I had extra sauce (about 400ml which I froze for future), and when I tasted the sauce before adding the last tin there was a lovely flavour, especially from the chorizo, but that seemed to get last in the end dish.  I will play around with it the next time and let you know what happens!

My finished product (I have to get better at taking photos of food, this looks a bit sad).

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