Eggs en cocotte with smoked haddock and toast
Pancake Tuesday, then Ash Wednesday herald the start of Lent.
In Ireland, we have many traditions of giving something up, or taking on a project, during this season as a ‘penance’ or an attempt to be good during what was traditionally a very important season in Ireland, and still is on the religious calendar.
Lent includes the only two days on the Catholic calendar when we are supposed to ‘fast’ - not eat meat and eat sparingly.
In our house the traditional meal was smoked haddock for as long as I can remember on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It was associated with penance but that didn’t take from the deliciousness of the haddock!
These days I’m a bit more adventurous with haddock recipes. And it shouldn’t be kept just for ‘fast days.’
We’ll start with a quick and easy dish.
Smoked Haddock Pasta Bake
2 frozen smoked haddock fillets (approx 100g/4oz each)
150g / 6oz dried pasta
150g / 6oz frozen sweetcorn
50g / 2oz grated cheddar
3/4 pint of milk
2 Tablespoons of cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons of cold water
A handful of breadcrumbs or crushed crisps/ cornflakes
Wrap the haddock in tin foil and bake in the oven on a medium heat for 20 minutes.
While the fish is cooking, cook the pasta as you would normally.
Next make the cheese sauce by bringing the milk to the boil in a saucepan. When it starts to bubble remove from the heat and quickly stir in the cornflour. Stir as rapidly as you can as you add the mix to avoid lumps.
Stir in the cheddar and some black pepper to taste. The sauce shouldn’t be too thick.
When the haddock and pasta are cooked, flake the fish and add all the ingredients together. Put into an oven proof dish and top with the breadcrumbs/ crisps. Bake for 15/20 minutes before serving.
Now for something that looks fancy but is easier to make than it’s name might suggest!
Eggs en cocotte with smoked haddock
20g leeks, finely sliced
20g smoked haddock, diced
1 large egg
1 tbsp double cream
1 pinch salt and pepper
Gently melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the leeks until they are soft.
Place the leeks into an individual ovenproof dish and spoon the diced smoked haddock on top. Season with salt and pepper.
Make a little well in the haddock and leek mixture and crack the egg into the hole. Spoon the double cream on the top.
Heat the oven at 170°C. Place the dish(es) into a tray of warm water and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.
To serve sprinkle it with chopped chives and serve with toast for a posh breakfast.
And then there is the classic smoked haddock that we grew up with - cooked in milk and onions. Here’s a version from legendary chef Delia Smith!
Smoked haddock with creme fraiche, chive and butter sauce
350-400g(12-14oz) smoked haddock
2 rounded tablespoons crème fraîche
1 heaped tablespoon snipped fresh chives
10g (½ oz ) butter, diced
150 ml (5 fl oz) whole milk
Place the fish in the frying pan and add a little freshly milled black pepper but no salt.
Then pour in the milk (it won’t cover the fish, but that doesn’t matter), bring it up to simmering point and simmer gently, uncovered, for 8-12 minutes. You will be able to see quite clearly when they are cooked, as the whole thing will become pale and opaque.
Now carefully remove the fish to a plate using a fish slice, increase the heat and add the crème fraîche to the pan. Continue to simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes, until the sauce reduces and thickens slightly, then whisk in the butter and return the fish to the sauce briefly.
Scatter in the chives, let it bubble for about 30 seconds and it’s ready to serve.