There’s no contest. Or, at least that’s how the opening line was going to be for this particular post. Let me explain; probably around this time last year (or a little earlier) I happened upon a couple of recipes for savoury crumbles – something that had never crossed my mind to make. One of them was definitely a post by Kiki of DINNER FOR (N)ONE. Which I completely forgot about when I wrote a post on what had happened to my failed attempt at making one several weeks later. To the extent I didn’t even go with a recipe, the overall taste and texture was that terribly unexciting. Not that that’s a reflection on Kiki’s post, I hasten to add. Remember, I’d forgotten about Kiki’s post by the time I got around to making mine. The idea was there, however. Yet, any combination of ingredients that might’ve worked seemed to allude me – still do. To the extent I was going to give up on the idea after two more failed attempts last weekend. Until the Sunday. When I decided to use a little of a freshly made filling with a more normal, for me, topping using literally only self-raising flour (AP with baking powder already added) and unsalted butter. Wow! Perfection – almost. The filling was in fact letting the topping down. Yikes!
There were several problems with the other two attempts. Soggy I don’t do. Regardless of what it is. Fruit crumble tends to be that wonderful combination of crisp topping with a little touch of crumble that gets a tad soggy underneath. That I’m fine with. With the savoury crumble there was too much sauce causing the crumble to soak it up leaving hardly any crunch on top. So, second attempt this time around was baking the crumble topping separately and then that was added on top when both it and the filling were piping hot. Hmm, that did help to sort out the sogginess. What wasn’t working was the inclusion of polenta (cornmeal), for the topping, I was eagerly using for the first time. It’s texture was nicely crunchy – if you imagine leaving the window open next to your food and half the sandy beach at the end of the street ends up on your plate. That sort of crunchy. Yes, its crunch really irked! Delicious in my polenta bread, I have to admit. That’s why, out of frustration, I ended up going with simplicity. Especially as I’d planned on baking a fruit crumble later on Sunday evening, which is why I kept to just two ingredients for the crumble, knowing that sugar and spices could be added.
Regardless, I’m thrilled that I persevered with the idea of a fish and bacon crumble. As there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just a matter of choosing the right mix of ingredients to go with. Ahem, whenever! Enough of all that. For this post I’m sticking with potatoes for the topping. With the fish and bacon pie as is it’s fairly basic. A beefed-up white sauce purely to include certain vegetables lurking in my cupboard – especially one of my least favourites, carrots. And the usual broccoli stalk I always seem to have to hand. Yes, there’s a little bit of bacon (which I seldom eat) included in the pie. Prawns/shrimp are always great in fish pie, along with differing types of fish. Here, I’ve simply gone with frozen Pollack that has loads of flavour. Definitely impressed with it. Not so with the fresh parsley! It tasted like it had been on an 18 – 30 holiday all season and was invariably exhausted. There is, ultimately, something incredibly soothing and comforting about this type of food. It’s as good as a chicken, leek and bacon (oops, bacon again?!) risotto made the previous weekend/month, I think. You know, the type of dish that melts taut shoulders into submission. With every bite relaxation has a chance, eventually!
Potato Topped Fish and Bacon Pie
FOR THE STOCK:
- 400ml (0.846 pint) x cold water
- 1 x organic vegetable stock cube
- 1 – 2 x onions, peeled, trimmed and quartered
- 2 – 3 x organic garlic cloves, peeled, trimmed and kept whole
- 1 x dried bay leaf, split
- 5 – 6 x whole black peppercorns
- 1 x broccoli stalk, trimmed and split in half lengthways
- 2oog (7.055 oz) x carrots, peeled, trimmed and roughly chopped (can be used after for carrot & parsnip mash)
- 240g (8.466 oz) x parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into large chunks (can be used after for carrot & parsnip mash)
- 1 x celery stalk, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped – optional
- parsley stalks, a couple if they’re to hand
FOR THE SAUCE:
- 2 x tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 x tablespoon sunflower oil
- 3 x tablespoons plain (AP) flour
- 200g + (7.055 oz) x frozen Pollack fish fillets
- 60g (2.116 oz) x cooked bacon bits, more to personal taste
- 1 x organic hard-boiled egg per person, shelled and chopped
- handful fresh parsley, chopped
- about 8 roasted and skinned hazelnuts, finely grated – optional
- seasoning, both freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, to personal taste (remember to taste after the fish is cooked as it might be salty already)
FOR THE POTATO TOPPING:
- 400g + (14.11 oz) x salad potatoes, scrubbed, kept whole and boiled until cooked
- butter, to personal taste
- single/light cream, to personal taste
- seasoning, to personal taste
FOR THE CRUMBLE (if anyone’s interested. It’s not the crumble in third photo from top of post):
- 100g (3.527 oz) x self-raising flour (AP with baking powder already added)
- 75g (2.64 oz) x unsalted butter
Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.
- Add all of the stock ingredients to a large saucepan with lid and put on electric heat No 4 (out of 6.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat to No 2 and simmer for at least 30 minutes. If serving carrot and parsnip mash retrieve those and set aside. Otherwise, strain the stock through a suitable metal colander into a bowl. Mash the remaining vegetables with the back of a metal serving spoon to extract as much valuable juice and nutrients as possible. Set stock aside.
- Add the oils and flour to a heavy-based saucepan on low heat only. Allow about 5 minutes to cook out the flour. Any signs of bubbling take off heat and allow to cool as the roux must not turn brown.
- If using frozen fish fillets I prefer to place them in a large saucepan with just enough cold water to cover. Put that on heat No 3 and bring to near simmering. Carefully strain the water (which will be loaded with salt glaze) and place the partially cooked fillets in very cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
- Cook the bacon and eggs if using. Put the potatoes on to boil. When cooked drain and mash with as much or as little butter and cream as needed. Season with both sea salt and pepper.
- Put the roux back on heat No 3 and start to add some of the strained stock. Stir continuously until the sauce starts to thicken. Add more stock to gain the consistency needed. I prefer the sauce to be wet as the potato topping will soak up a certain amount of it.
- Preheat oven to 200°C or 392°F.
- To assemble the pie: grease an oven suitable dish/casserole with butter. Pour in the sauce to about 2/3 of the way up. Flake over the fish, cutting up any parts of the fish that won’t flake easily. Add the bacon, eggs, parsley and hazelnuts if using. Taste for any needed seasoning. Carefully add large spoonfuls of the creamy mash on top, without pressing on the topping unnecessarily. Place in the centre of a preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the topping is nicely golden and the interior of the pie is piping hot.
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