#190 Finnan Haddock

A bit of a cop out this one as it it’s not really a recipe, though it is listed as one in the book. It’s actually more a bit of advice on good eating. There’s many like this in the book. Here, Griggers discusses the dos and don’ts of buying Finnan haddock, which is smoked haddock. We call it Finny haddock in Yorkshire. Findon, or Finnan is a small coastal village near Aberdeen in Scotland. It is there where the proper stuff is made. Griggers warns us of buying those ‘golden fillets’ that are that weird shiny orange colour like cheap sweaty spray-on tan, which I suppose it is but with added smoke flavour. Splarf. My mum used to buy them and they are vastly inferior to the proper stuff. There have been a few recipes so far in the book that has used Finnan haddock, and I think that I have mentioned all this before. However, if you want the really good shit, it is Arbroath that you need to travel to. There, Arbroath smokies are made. As I was in the fishmongers buying some prawns (see a later entry for what I wanted those for) there some were, just lying there. So I bought one, as you have to be opportunistic in this game.

So the recipe? “Heat briefly under the grill or in the oven, and eaten with plenty of butter and bread, or used for kedgeree.” So a brief grilling it was for my little smokie.

#190 Finnan Haddock. If you ever see those little Arbroath smokies in the fishmongers you have to buy some. The flesh was so succulent and sweet due to its protection by the now leathery skin, and the smoke flavour was nothing like anything I’ve tasted before: it was as though it had only just been taken out of the smokehouse and slipped onto my plate. The smoke flavour was sweet and acrid, not unlike a good cigar. Excellent. 8/10. If I catch any of you buying a golden fillet, I will come over personally and poke you in the eye with it.

#184 Kedgeree

The thrifty cooking is going well – Charlotte and I having been very shrewd. However, when it comes to Sunday dinnertime, I did want a nice big hearty (and pricey) roast. Instead I went for kedgeree. I don’t recall ever having eaten it before, even though I knew exactly what is required to make it. I had high hopes for it: curry, eggs and Finnan (smoked) haddock. What can’t be good about that!? It used to be a breakfast dish, but these days it’s eaten for dinner or tea.

I have been researching the origins of kedgeree, and there seems to be two differing stories: the Scots reckon that it hails from there, and when the lovely British Empire decided to pop over to Asia and add India to its collection, the Scots brought it over too and the curry element was added. The alternative story is that the dish started in India, but then when colonialists came over, they added the smoked fish. I’m going with the latter story – the best evidence is the etymology of the word: kedgeri is the name of a similar Indian dish containing rice, lentils and eggs.

To make kedgeree, start off by poaching a pound of Finnan haddock in barely simmering water for ten minutes. You can use any good-flavoured cured fish, of course, for example kippers, smoked salmon or bloaters. Meanwhile chop a large onion and fry it in olive oil until it browns. Add a teaspoon of curry paste (I used Madras) and fry for a minute. Remove the fish from the water, remove its skin and flake the flesh, removing any bones. To the pan, stir in six ounces of long grain rice and when translucent add a pint of the poaching water. Cover the pan and let it simmer gently until all the water has been absorbed. Gently stir in the flaked fish along with a large knob of butter. Plate out the kedgeree and decorate with quartered hard-boiled eggs, prawns and chopped parsley. Serve with a lemon wedge and mango chutney.

#184 Kedgeree. This did not disappoint – the food was substantial and well-flavoured, but light. The combination of curry and eggs, and of smoked fish and eggs is great. Plus the extra addition of the lemon, prawns and mango chutney; not something I would normally associate with this dish really makes it special. This is a high-scorer – the only gripe (and it is a minor one) is the use of long grain rice, I am a Basmati man myself; it has a nutty flavour and doesn’t go as stodgy. 8/10.

#39 Finnan Haddock in a Mustard Sauce

On a visit to the Arndale Market earlier in the week on mission to buy something meaty, I found rather slim pickings! Maybe is was because I went the day after Easter Sunday, but there was little fish that appears in the Grigson’s book, and the game stall looked as though it may have closed down! I do hope not. Due to the lack of exciting ingredients, I plumped for old faithful: Finny haddock – or Finnan haddock as it appears it is really called.

It was quite an easy dish to prepare. The fish was poached gently in milk for 10 minutes that had already been brought to the boil containing cloves, bay leaf, a sliced carrot and a sliced onion. The fish was removed and kept warm. The milk was strained and used to make the sauce. The Grigson says to start with a roux of butter and flour and then to add the milk until a thin sauce is produced, which is then reduced. Be warned though, adding hot milk to a hot roux can cause lumps – use a whisk, but be prepared to sieve out any that shouls appear. Dijon mustard and seasoning was then added and poured over the fish. The whole thing was served with boiled potatoes turned in butter and parsley.

FYI: Finnan haddock, or haddie, originally comes from the Scottish village of Finnan near Aberdeen. Its IUCN conservation status is Vulnerable. However, stocks have been recently reported as increasing once more.

#39 Finnan Haddock in a Mustard Sauce – 8/10. I absolutely love Finny haddock, so I couldn’t go wrong with this one. I was a bit stingy on the mustard though – add more than you think is needed I’d say.

Recipe #1 – Smoked Finnan Haddock Soup

Well the first dish was made last night – my mate Simon popped on over to see my new house so I thought I’d better get started with this little undertaking!

I decided on Smoked Finnan Haddock Soup as the first dish – it seemed straight-forward enough and the ingredients were easy to get at short-notice. A bit of poaching and then liquidising were the most testing techniques. Easy-peasy – all done in 35 minutes.

I’ve decided that Tuedsay’s are the best day for fish dishes as the fish is usually delivered on that day. The fishmongers in the Arndale market were very good. Nice, super-fresh, plump fish fillets – and very good value for money; seven quid for 8 ounces of naturally-smoked haddock and 12 ounces of white fish (I chose cod, whiting and coley). I didn’t want to use all cod as the white fish as perhaps I would have done 10 years ago, but it’s much too expensive these days, plus it’s on its way to extinction with overfishing. (I doubt if I could pass the Pepsi challenge with coley and cod anyway.)

Pour boiling water over 8 ounces of Finnan haddock and let it lightly poach for 10 minutes. Whilst you’re waiting for that, cut 12 ounces of white fish into cubes and melt 2 ounces of butter in a pan and cook a large chopped onion. once soft, stir in a tablespoon of flour and let it cook out for two minutes or so. Measure out a quarter of a pint of the haddock water as well as a pint of milk. Flake the haddock and keep a tablespoon of the fish aside. Place the rest – bones, skin and all – into the soup pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove any large obvious bones and then liquidise the soup, then reheat it without letting it boil. Add a quarter of a pint of cream and some chopped parsley. Stir the tablespoon of reserved haddock meat, season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Here’s what Simon said about the soup:

“Tuesdsay11th September 2007Grigson’s smoked haddock soup. Served with brown bread and a crisp Sauvinon Blanc.Happy to report I have had the pleasure of eating Neil’s first official dish from the book. The soup served was a creamy delight with a delicate but plentiful flavour. The smoked fish was balanced wonderfully with cream, parsley and lemon; all presented well with an excellent consistancy. Overall the soup was very moreish so I went back for more. Yummy, next please.
Food: 5
Service: 4
Decor: 2(Out of 5 that is)”

So a great start – I would certainly recommend this one to anyone who wants to make a quick supper or a very easy, but impressive starter.

Simon decided that the next dish to be attemped is: Duck Stewed in Green Peas

However, I’m going to do some veggie stuff soon too as my boyfriend Greg is a veggie – as well as a fair few friends of mine too! Maybe a meat and two veg with a veggie option is the way to go.

Send me your ideas please!!