Smoked Haddock, Leek and Potato (from Delicious Magazine, Fearnley-Whittingstall 2012)
I am frightened of fish. I don’t mean I get the shakes in a dentist waiting room watching the goldfish meander existentially around their bowl. Nor do I get sweaty-palmed at the London Aquarium (actually, I do; the inmates look like they’re waiting patiently for the order to attack in a plot to overthrow their human overlords). I mean I’m nervous of cooking them; all accusing, beady little eyes, and oh the bones, so many bones… Don’t even get me started on crustaceans, or “Kraken” as I prefer to call them, which make me scream in restaurants. Really they do. So I have been avoiding a fish dish, and as aware as I am that I am going to have to face my fears and approach a whole fish before long, and even Kraken, I needed to start easy.
Admittedly, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is about the least French name and man you can find (see photo below). He once cooked human placenta on television. Actually, that sounds exactly like something the French would do. And to be honest, I don’t even know for sure if this is a French dish. A smoked fish, leek and potato dish could come from Scandinavia for all I know, which is pretty poor of me considering La Petite Gourmande Anglaise’s raison d’être is French cooking. But upon a meagre Google search, I discovered that the word haddock in France actually refers to smoked haddock, and that they are so proud of their smoked fish that they have a “Smoked in France” product label. Not only that but it involves leeks in butter. That’s French enough for me.
So, “haddock, poireaux et pommes de terre“. The smoked fish fillets fall apart after being poached in stock and release the most comforting oak-y, cumin-y aroma. To me, it’s like walking into a room filled with the smells of freshly-brewed coffee and newly-baked cinnamon bread. But the real “aaaah” moment is stirring in the cream. Cream makes everything well in the world, whether poured liberally over a bowl of raspberries until resembling a scene from Titanic, the final helpless raspberries clinging on to one last glimpse of daylight, or stodging up a plate of otherwise delicate ingredients, as in this case.
The recipe is really quite simple; most of the effort required goes into cubing the potatoes. The second most taxing part of the process is eating it, so I’d recommend this if you’re lazy and want to impress and earn kudos without really having to do anything at all. That’s most of us, right?
But to end on a slightly serious note: please only buy responsibly-sourced fish. That means sustainable and pole or line caught. If not for any other reason than the inhabitants of Sea World will be coming to get you if you don’t. (I only said slightly serious.)
2 fillets smoked haddock / 650ml fish or veg stock /1 leek / 500g potatoes / 4 tbsp double cream / butter / parsley / salt & pepper
Lay fish in a big saucepan and pour over stock / Bring to boil and turn off, turn fish over, leave for 3 mins / Take fish out and flake, keep stock / Sliced leeks with butter in pan until soft / Add cubed potatoes and stock then simmer for 10 mins until potatoes tender / Stir in cream and fish / Season
Here’s Hugh, provoking our future fishy overlords even further.