Fish stew

fish stew

Grumpy face. Got even grumpier in the few seconds after this photo was taken.

I looked at the fish pie mix in the fridge, thought about yet another fish pie and felt uninspired. This is a simplified version of a bouillabaisse.

Serves 3

1 glug olive oil

1 dessert spoon butter

1 onion, chopped

2 big garlic cloves, crushed

A few tarragon leaves, chopped (or some dried tarragon)

1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 dessert spoon tomato puree

1 pinch saffron

Salt and pepper

1 fish pie mix (salmon, cod, smoked fish)

Squeeze of the juice of half a lemon (another good reason to have a G&T later)

1 dessert spoon of butter

Melt the butter and oil and then cook the onion and garlic gently till transparent, then add the tarragon, veg, saffron, seasoning, tomato puree and tinned tomatoes (and half a can of water from the tap). Bring to the boil and then either simmer for 40 minutes or so, or slow cook (I put my in the Aga slow cooker for 3 hours). At that point, puree it, add the lemon juice and extra butter and tip in the fish, cooking till it’s tender – about 10-15 minutes.

We had ours with bread and butter.


Half moon chicken pasties


A bit more sun-like when they’re coated in egg wash, in fact.

There’s something very satisfying about this; using up leftovers and doing the sort of cooking that you watched your mum do when you were little – rolling out pastry, sealing pies, brushing on egg wash.

This is one of those dishes that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Makes 16 bite sized pasties

1 sheet puff pastry

Leftover chicken stew

1 egg, beaten

Flour for rolling

Roll the puff pastry out thinly and cut into small circles – I used a tea cup. Place on a lined baking sheet, floury side up (otherwise when you egg wash you get into a claggy mess of flour and egg), and put around a teaspoon of stew into the middle of each. You need to be relatively stingy with the stew to keep them neat. Brush egg in a circle round the outside rim and seal them into half moon shaped pasties. Brush the top with egg wash and pop them in a hot oven (200 degrees) for 15 minutes, till puffed up and golden.

I had mine with a leafy green salad. I showed Bert what a salad leaf looked like for future reference.

Eastern spiced chicken stew and dumplings

chicken stew

Serves 2.5 or 1.5 with leftovers

For the stew:

400g diced chicken thigh

Flour for browning the chicken – probably about 30g

1 teaspoon zaatar

1/2 teaspoon sumac (if you haven’t had an Yotam Ottolenghi phase you can substitute lemon zest for the sumac and a combination of dried oregano, cumin and marjoram for the zaatar)

A little olive oil

1 onion, thickly sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 small carrots, cut into batons

Handful of greens, finely chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

A low salt stock cube

200 ml water

For the dumplings:

50g self raising flour

50g breadcrumbs (looking to start my own breadcrumbs business soon)

50g suet

A good pinch of zaatar or other herbs

1 egg

Dust the chicken in the flour and herbs then brown in the olive oil in a hot pan. Transfer to a casserole dish and fry the onions and garlic in a little more oil, adding the carrot when they’re nearly cooked. Cook them in a fairly hot pan so the onions get a little charred. Add to the meat along with the rest of the veg (greens as small as you can get ’em – we mean to deceive here), the stock cube, any remaining flour and 200ml of water. That’s not much water, but thin gravy and babies are a wildly chaotic combination. Bring to the boil, put the lid on and cook in a low oven (140-160 degrees), or the Aga simmering oven, for around 2-3 hours.

The Aga’s actually good at this, since nothing ever dries out in the simmering oven. In a standard oven you may need to keep checking that it hasn’t dried out and adding a little water if so. On the other hand, you have the advantage of being able to cook chips, cook more than once in a 24 hour period, have crisp skin on your chicken…

For the dumplings, combine the dry ingredients then add most of the beaten egg. Hold a little back as you may not need it all. Gather into a dough, adding a bit more egg if you need it. Form into around 10 baby dumplings (about walnut sized) and keep in the fridge till you need them. Pop them in the casserole and put the lid back on when there’s about 15 – 20 minutes cooking time to go and they’ll steam in the heat. The dumplings are a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe and I’ve never felt the need to look elsewhere.

Dumplings aren’t that much more trouble than mash once you’ve taken into account the peeling and the mashing, but this would be nice with mash too (if equally inauthentic).

Beef stew and pesto mash


Babies seem to prefer a tomatoey base to a beef stew – I suppose it’s lighter and fruitier and less intense.

Bert also seems to prefer having food dumped en masse in front of him and being in control of what he eats. Fair enough, I suppose I do too. This is good for picking up, but soft enough to chew when you’ve got just a couple of Bugs Bunny teeth.

Serves 2.5 or 1.5 with leftovers for pie or baked potatoes

450 g stewing steak

About 30 g plain flour, seasoned with grated nutmeg and black pepper

A couple of glugs of olive oil

1 stick celery, grated

1 large carrot or two small, grated

1 large carrot or two small, cut into chunks

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon dried rosemary or the leaves from a small sprig of fresh rosemary, very finely chopped

1 dessert spoon tomato puree

1 low salt beef stock cube

About 400ml water – hot from the kettle

Floury potatoes to your appetite – I used 5 smallish ones for the two of us and we had leftovers

2 dessert spoons basil pesto

Coat the beef  in the seasoned flour, heat a glug of oil in a frying pan and brown the beef on all sides. Transfer to a casserole dish with any remaining seasoned flour. Saute the veg in a bit more oil till the onions are soft. The shredded veg will melt into the sauce. Add to the casserole with the herbs, tomato puree, stock cube and water. Bring to a good boil on the top of the stove then cook at 180 degrees for about 3 hours. I’ve got an Aga, and I cook it on the bottom of the simmering oven for 3 or 4 hours.

Peel and chop the potatoes into even pieces and put in a pan of cold water, bringing to the boil, reducing to a simmer and then cooking till tender – about 20 minutes, depending on the size of your pieces. Or, if you’ve got an Aga, try the ‘steaming in the simmering oven’ method, curse your Aga and vow never to try that method again, and cook on the top of the stove till done. Mash till very smooth then stir in the pesto.

Grab handfuls and stuff them in your mouth, nose and ears.