Delicious Fish for Dinner Parties on a budget

SMOKED MACKEREL PATE and CLASSIC FISH PIE.

As promised, here are two more delicious, impressive and absolutely healthy Dinner Party recipes, or even ordinary everyday recipes if you like, for those cost- conscious people like myself, who do not want to compromise at all on quality or taste!

Fish on Friday is today’s theme, and here are two wonderful old family favourites, Smoked Mackerel Pate, and Fish Pie.

Not for me, the sheer expense of hand-dived scallops, line caught Tuna or Dover Sole, however scrumptious they may be! I am just as happy with really good Smoked Mackerel, Undyed Smoked Haddock and sustainably caught Cod, all of which are found in British waters too, and are relatively affordable. A two course Dinner party for 8 for around £5 a head? Absolutely! And probably a lot better than your local gastro-pub, and a million times nicer than any ready meal.

Smoked Mackerel Pate

This recipe does 6 generous portions, but could be stretched to 8 if having a Dinner Party. I timed the making of this, and it came to 15 minutes exactly once I had set out the necessary ingredients. That included the time I spent photographing and writing down the recipe! A food processor or blender makes it all very easy, but if you have neither, then a very nice product could be made using exactly the same ingredients, but pound, or mash together as finely as possible and call it potted smoked mackerel!

INGREDIENTS

250 to 300g or 1/2 pound or just over, of best quality plain smoked mackerel fillets

1 lemon, squeezed

30g or 2 oz room temperature unsalted butter

60 ml or 4 tablespoons of double cream

1 garlic clove, crushed

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

METHOD

Put the crushed garlic and skinned mackerel fillets into a food processor or blender. With the motor running, and once the mixture is well amalgamated, add the butter, lemon juice, cream and ground black pepper to taste. Taste again, and if necessary, add a small pinch of salt, although this will probably be not required.

Gently put into small ramekins, or even pretty coffee cups, levelling neatly with the back of a spoon. Cover with a plate, or clingfilm and chill in the fridge. You could also put it into one larger dish, and then make elegant quenelles spooned onto chicory leaves!

Serve with Melba Toast- see my previous blog post- and garnish with whatever takes your fancy. This can be made a day in advance, and will last around 48 hours in the fridge.

CLASSIC FISH PIE

Now I do not really like fish pie made with a cheesy topping as I find cheese with fish somewhat revolting. But do make this with cheese if you like it that way.

The recipe below will easily feed 8, but you could stretch to 10 if you bulk it out with some quartered hard boiled eggs and increase the amount of potato. Here, I have actually made 2 separate Fish Pies, each of which will serve 4, with the Ingredients listed, as I fully intend to freeze one for another day. It does freeze beautifully!

INGREDIENTS

1 and1/2 lbs or 680 g of Cod Fillet

12 oz to 1 lb or 400 to 450 g of undyed smoked Haddock Fillet

2oz or 30g of unsalted butter, plus a little more for the Mash, and some for greasing the dish

1 large onion

6 tablespoons, or 90 ml of double cream

1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley

2oz or 30 g of plain flour

1 pint or 500 ml of milk

Cayenne pepper

Juice of half a lemon

2 to 2/12 lbs, or 1 kg of floury potatoes such as King Edward or Maris Piper

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

METHOD

First, peel the potatoes and put on to boil. Allow 25 to 30 minutes gentle boiling until they are starting to break up and are tender in the middle. Drain them, and leave aside in a warm place with the pan lid ajar to allow them to dry out a little.

Whilst the potatoes are cooking, skin the fish fillets if necessary, and remove any bones that may still be lurking. Place them in a large saute pan with the milk, cover with a lid, and very gently poach until the fish just starts to flake. On no account should it boil! This may take anything between 5 and 15 minutes depending on how thick the fillets are , and at what point the milk started to heat up. Whilst still a little underdone, remove from the heat, and leave covered in a warm place.

Whilst the fish is resting, peel and finely chop the onion and put it into a pan over a medium heat with the butter. Gently soften the onion without browning until it is soft and translucent. Then tip in the flour and stir it around quite attentively until well amalgamated. Carefully strain the milky cooking liquor from the fish and add it to the onion, butter and flour mixture. Now stir it all really well together, pressing out any lumps of flour against the side of the pan. Keep it simmering for at least 5 minutes, stirring all the time, until it thickens and becomes silky smooth.

Finely chop the parsley, you should aim for 3 to 4 heaped tablespoons, and add it to the gently bubbling sauce along with the cream, juice of half a lemon, pinch of cayenne pepper and salt and black pepper to taste. When the sauce is done and seasoned to your liking, remove from the heat.

Carefully distribute the now cooled and cooked fish into your previously well- buttered chosen receptacle. Make sure that you have evenly mixed both types of fish, and aim for large flakes not a pureed mush!

Now is the time to add some quartered hard boiled eggs if you intend to feed more than 8 people. If you are really pushing the boat out, you could also add a bag of defrosted North Atlantic Cold Water prawns. The warm water King prawns from the tropics are not a success in this pie, in my opinion.

Then, carefully pour the sauce around the fish, giving a gentle stir to all.

Lastly, tackle the mashed potato. If you use Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes, then you can get away with just using a traditional masher. Any other variety will need a potato ricer or even a sieve to produce a lump free result. Add a generous knob of butter, a pinch of salt and no more than a couple of large spoon of milk after you have given it a good mashing, and then mash a bit more. But not so it turns to glue!

Then top your pie. You can either go posh, and pipe it from a suitable sturdy plasic bag with a hole cut in the corner, or simply apply it with a palette knife, like plaster. Whichever you choose, it is much easier if you first make a rim of mashed potato around the outside of the pie, as you can then get everything else to stick nicely. A decorative forked pattern can look nice too. I have shown both methods in my photo here.

Just before serving, dot the surface with several tiny bits of butter, and bake at around 180 to 200C for around 30 minutes until the top is beautifully browned, and the pie hot and starting to bubble up round the edges.

Serve with cooked frozen peas, leaf spinach or a simple green salad.

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