Sunday, 10 November 2013

Smoked fish (and prawns) in a lemony white sauce

This is a lovely filling for a baked potato. Serves about four. It is easier to make than it sounds!

Gently heat some butter/spread in a pan (about an ounce)

Chop an onion or two (depending on size) and soften for a couple of minutes, then stir in about an ounce of plain flour (I don't measure this out, a heaped dessert or rounded table spoon is about an ounce) so it combines with the flour and then cook it gently for a minute or two.

Add about 2-3 tbsp lemon juice (depending on how sharp you like it). This is about the juice of one lemon if you are using fresh and not bottled.

Now start to add a bit of milk slowly while stirring, then add some more and stir, more and stir as you make a sauce from the paste...

This is the slightly tricky bit as lemon juice and milk are not natural friends, but be bold and stir fast - if the milk splits to start with, the mixing it with the flour paste does bring it all back together, honest!)

Keep adding the milk until you have as much milk in as you want sauce (probably up to a pint*) and let it cook on low for a minute or two to thicken and until it starts to gently bubble. Grind in some black pepper while it heats. (If you do use a fresh lemon, grating the zest into the sauce is really nice too.)

Add chunks** of smoked fish (eg cod/haddock/coley, about 1lb. I prefer un-dyed) with the skin removed*** and stir carefully to coat the fish with the sauce (you want the fish to stay in chunks as much as possible) then put the lid on. Check after about five minutes and carefully stir again. It might need a couple more minutes, depending on the size of the chunks)

Once the fish is cooked, stir in any prawns if you are using them (bear in mind that if they are still frozen it will add more liquid and salt, probably worth thawing first, or at least giving them a quick rinse in a sieve under the cold tap and patting gently with some kitchen roll)

Give them a minute or two to heat through, then add in any frozen veg (sweetcorn, peas, green beans) to heat through too. (Or it's nice served with courgettes, or fresh green beans/mange-tout/sugar-snaps)

*You want the sauce to be a bit wet so it cooks the fish, but also bear in mind that the fish and any prawns and veg you add will also add liquid, so keep it quite thick at this stage. (I usually add a little bit of milk around the edge of the pan just before I add the fish so it steams)

** Big chunks take a little longer to cook, but if you start big and the chunks break up, at least you are left with smaller chunks and not mince-y fish rubble. I usually start with inch-pieces.

*** Start at the tail end with a sharp knife and cut down at a slight angle to the skin. Hold the tail firmly and pull it while sliding the knife along towards the other end. If you've done it a few times, you can do this while the sauce is heating up, as it does only take a minute or two to skin and chop if you have a bit of confidence. Otherwise maybe do this before you start the sauce, or switch the heat off while you are doing it.

1oz = 25g
1tbsp = 15ml
1pt = 450ml
1lb = 450g

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