Too late to be early

Sunday November 12, 2006

I felt too tired this morning to do anything, and observed as much to Graham over breakfast.

“Me too. It’s the day after thing. And we did have a very late night last night.”

“Oh well. Just so long as it’s not only me.”

“Nah. Look at Dolly, yawning her head off.”

“That’s nothing to go by. She’s always yawning her head off.”

“I bet she’ll be toddling off for her morning sleep in a minute.”

“I have a feeling I may do the same as soon as I’ve finished up.”

“Why not? Do you have anything you have to do today?”

“Nothing special. I’ll need to pop down to Sainsbury’s before lunch.”

“Get something easy and let’s all have a day off.”

So I finished my morning writing, turned the computer off, and took a nice little nap on the sofa, with Dolly purring contentedly at my side. To Sainsbury’s, where I picked up lazy food. Lunch was followed, quite properly, by another nap and, when I got up I stirred myself enough to prepare vegetables ready for our evening meal.

“We shall have to eat late again,” I said.

“Why’s that, then?”

“I’ve just noticed they’ve shifted Torchwood back to ten o’clock.”

“Why don’t we eat early, and then you can watch it after dinner.”

“It’s too late to be early.”

“You know best.”

“You betcha I do.”

Today’s OMPOWRIMO poem has no deep significance. Just a bit of fun that would have done well for Halloween…


Fear the day
When you scratch too hard
at the dregs of the poetic barrel
the earth opens and the dead arise.
The ancients come, oh fear the day,
they come, they come to carry
the poet’s eye far too far away.
The words fail in their courses
the strophes hesitate in their turns
the monsters stir in the wind-torn night.
The faery folk drop their webby gowns
take up their axes and show their shining
teeth, sharp and ready. Oh, fear the day.
John Bailey
Somerset, November 2006


You asked me for the recipe for my fish pie. Happy to comply, I searched through my cook book only to find that the sheet I thought I had is nowhere to be found. It’s not really a recipe, you see, it’s more of a tradition. Even so, doing my best, I’ve worked out what it is I do when I make a fish pie and I reproduce it here for your delectation:


Fish Pie—the recipe

Fish pie is more of a way of producing an easy-to-cook supper dish from stuff you have in the cupboard and freezer than a formal recipe. I usually cook it with smoked haddock from the freezer but any firm-fleshed white fish will do. You can even make it with smoked salmon steaks if you’ve a mind for something extra special. Whatever your choice be sure it’s properly filleted and all bones removed.

Take an oval pie dish about two or three inches deep and grease it lightly on the bottom and part way up the sides. Place a small piece of fish (two to three ounces, no more) in the bottom for each person and dot each of them with two or three king prawns, shelled and cleaned. If using frozen fish, cover securely and defrost in the fridge for about eight hours or an hour on the counter in the kitchen. Doesn’t have to be completely defrosted but I always feel safer working with properly defrosted provender.

Meantime, prepare about half a pint of parsley sauce and enough mashed potato to make a pie cover. You can use packet sauce if you don’t cook your own, and left-over mash from the previous day is fine, too.

Cover all of this and put it aside until about an hour before you’re ready to eat.

When ready, pour the sauce over the fish and prawns, just enough to cover. Lift the fish a little so’s the sauce can go underneath. Season with fresh ground black pepper and a sprinkle of dried tarragon.

Spoon the mash carefully over the top and fork out to seal to the edges, making a pretty pattern if you’re so inclined. Sprinkle with a little grated cheese. I always use supermarket cheddar for this sort of thing but if you have a bit of gruyere left over that’ll make the dish extra special.

Decorate the top with a little line of sliced tomato, pierce a couple of steam holes with a skewer, place the dish on a baking sheet, and pop into a medium oven for 30-40 minutes or until light golden brown on top. Home-baked fish pie always leaks a little bit around the sides; I use this as a test that the thing’s properly cooked.

Serve immediately with a salad of your choice—chopped tomato with a little basil works awfully well. Being fair, this is a dish that’ll keep warm perfectly happily for an hour or two in a very mild oven, covered with foil, but I like it best when served as soon as it’s cooked.

Do you know the trick to serving a potato topped pie without generating a messed-up splosh on the plate? Ok. Run a knife around the edge and, using two fish slices, one at either end, carefully lift the topping in one piece onto a hot plate which you set aside for a moment. Spoon the contents of the pie onto the serving plates, divide the topping and, using a fish slice, slide a serving on top of each pile of contents. That way you preserve the appearance of the pie topping. Easy and neat.

Happy eating!



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