Nothing good happens after 2am. Or in the case of a small coastal town 1am as there isn’t the same range of late licensed establishments.
Saturday night, after 6 hours of celebrating Dan’s father’s birthday, we were suddenly the last ones standing (barefoot I might add, heels had been discarded in the corner for hours by this point). The group quickly divided into two camps, those who didn’t want to stop the party and those who didn’t want to go to anywhere that was open at that hour.
I was firmly in the latter camp. Lacking any nightclubs in the area the only options were dank dirty bars that charge a cover fee to get in, the kind you would actively avoid during daylight hours. Needless to say our side lost out, and we bundled down to the only place that was open. Within half an hour we were homeward bound, further inebriated with lighter wallets and sticky shoes.
The next morning we were all worse for wear, none of us made the family breakfast and I missed the message from my boss I was waiting for. Moral of the story, the only thing you should overindulge in after 1am is a big bag of greasy chips and a giant orange fanta – especially if you have offered to work the next morning.
Sunday evening called for comfort food, so Dan whipped up one of my favourites, fish pie. Unlike the creamy versions I remember as a child that were heavy on potato and white fish this pie is light and fresh. Creme fraiche or cream is substituted for grated vegetables and lemon juice which makes it a bright cheerful meal for spring. What I love most about this recipe is how uncomplicated it is to make by haphazardly arranging layers of ingredients before throwing in the oven. It’s a great use for leftover mashed potatoes – did you know you can freeze them? which is an easy way to reduce waste from those huge bags you buy at the supermarket.
Whilst it cooks all the moisture seeps to the bottom allowing the potatoes and cheese on top to form a satisfying crust. By elevating the fish on a layer of vegetables it cooks it perfectly so it maintains it’s shape and flakes away when you cut into it. This recipe was originally in Jamie’s Ministry of Food, but over the years we have tweaked it to our own personal taste. A few more vegetables, less fish (though still enough to create a generous layer), a few boiled eggs for luck and reserving some of cheese to sprinkle on top. I hate peeling potatoes so if I’m in charge I will halve new potatoes and mash the skins and all, with a tale of that where all the nutrients are anyway. Dan prefers regular (peeled potato) mash made from maris pipers. Either way it freezes well, or will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.
adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food
1kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 sticks of celery
150g cheddar cheese
a couple of handfuls of spinach washed
1 medium lemon
½ red chilli
4 sprigs parsley
390g fish pie mix or a mix of salmon, smoked haddock and cod
2 boiled eggs
Start by boiling the potatoes until soft, about 12 minutes depending on the size of your chunks of potatoes, then drain.
Mash with a pinch of salt and pepper, the olive oil and milk. Put to one side. If you are planning on cooking the fish pie later allow the mash to cool completely before adding.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
In a dish grate the carrot and the celery, zest the lemon and mix together.
On a chopping board grate the cheese, and sprinkle half over the vegetables and reserve half. Chop the chilli and parsley and scatter evenly across the dish.
Layer over the spinach and then add the fish. If I am feeling particularly enthusiastic (read OCDish) I will add each piece in lines, one type after the next. The main goal is to get the fish evenly mixed up and spread out.
Squeeze the juice of a lemon over the fish.
Peel and quarter the eggs and add to the dish.
Spoon over the mashed potato and flatten out. Using a spoon create a series of zigzag lines over the top of the mash, this creates peaks that will go crispy when baked.
Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
After this time remove, sprinkle over the remaining cheddar and bake for a further 20 minutes. This keeps the cheese melted but not completely browned.