Smoked haddock Monte Carlo

I first encountered this delicious dish in a cookbook called The Recipes That Made A Million, by Franco Lagatolla, published in 1978. Lagatolla ran a few swanky Italian restaurants in the smartest parts of London in the 1960s. There is lots of name-dropping featuring the likes of Princess Margaret, Gregory Peck, and Frank Sinatra. The fact that I still have it after multiple house moves is testament to the fact that it has some really good traditional Italian recipes in it. The beef olives for one, and an amazingly good albeit labour-intensive lasagne featuring meatballs with pine nuts, sultanas, and lemon zest in them.

This recipe is clearly not traditional Italian, but it’s one of the most sauce-stained pages in the book. I hadn’t made it for many years, decades even, due to lack of proper smoked haddock in France. Of course when I did buy some, I wasn’t at home but in the UK, so I recreated the recipe based on my memory and a bit of googling. Hence this is a bit different from the original but just as good, and quite easy to make. Well, if you don’t count the poached eggs, which must be proper ones, not done in an egg poacher. Cheffy hint: poach them in advance, set aside in a bowl of warm water, and have a pan of boiling water ready to reheat them for 30 seconds when you are ready to serve.

I didn’t measure anything, so quantities are vague depending on how many people you are feeding. Start with the assumption of about 200 g of haddock per person and work from there. No photo either, sorry!

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Lotte à l’Américaine

Américaine, armoricaine, who cares when the sauce is this good? I wouldn’t smother lobster in this, but I find monkfish on its own a bit dull. This sauce is anything but dull; I don’t think the cream is conventional, but it smooths out the acidity of the tomatoes and gives an extra unctuousness. Steve adapted the first recipe he found when he went to and typed in “lotte”. And it was quick to make; we got home from work after seven, and it was on the table by eight. This sauce would work well with other firm fish/seafood; I can imagine it with squid, for example. Monkfish is on the expensive side, but you do sometimes get tails relatively cheap.
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Fish pie

This is a nice variation on the traditional fish pie with a mashed potato top and cheesy sauce, based on an idea from WorldWide Recipes that includes shrimps and scallops. With all due respect to the Chef, I think putting scallops in a fish pie is a bit of a waste of scallops, so I would always recommend using whatever mixture of not-too-expensive fish you fancy. My absolute favourite version is with real Finnan haddock, but sadly that is completely unobtainable here; the nearest you can get is that ghastly bright yellow stuff that stains everything it touches. On this occasion, we used some fillets of firm white fish and a smallish piece of salmon. Feel free to put shrimps or prawns in too, if you fancy them.
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Rillettes de thon

rillettes de thon

Strictly speaking, rillettes are a kind of pâté made of pork cooked in its own fat and then finely shredded (very nice, despite the description!). This version is a kind of tuna pâté, simple to make and delicious on toast. You need to use good-quality tuna, preferably “au naturel” rather than in oil — though you can use the latter if you drain it well. Make it at least an hour before you want to eat it; it will keep for several days in the fridge.
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Loup de mer en papillotte

Sea bass, called bar in most of France, is called loup de mer on the Mediterranean, apparently because of its aggressive behaviour. It’s a delicious fish, with glossy silver scales and firm white flesh, but expensive enough to be an occasional treat. Yesterday our fishmonger had small ones at 16 euros a kilo, but they were beautifully fresh, and not farmed, a rare thing among fish these days. So I bought two, and with a big bag of moules de bouchot for mouclade, my purchases came to just over 17 euros.

Usually I cook bass the Catalan way, simply with tomatoes and lemon,or else grill it on the barbecue with fennel if it’s summer, so I’d just asked the fishmonger to gut them and leave the scales on. However I felt like a change, and Steve kindly agreed to fillet them. This is a very simple, healthy recipe and it was excellent, served with some sliced potatoes left over from a baked dorade earlier in the week.

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So this seems like something so basic you don’t need a recipe, but it’s surprisingly easy to get wrong, as I know from experience. The key is not to overdo the potato, or you will end up with something stodgy and dull. Stick to equal weights of fish and potato; the rest is a matter of taste..

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