The allure of Lent

10 March 2017

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ONE redeeming sign that Britain retains a Christian culture is in the notion of giving up something for Lent — even among those who never go to church. (Discuss.) Likewise, supermarkets seem to up their seasonal offerings at the fish counter during this season; and fish and chip shops hold their own, too. No house should be without its own recipe for Fish pie.

 

1.5kg (3 lb) potatoes
3 eggs, hardboiled
150g (5 oz) butter
750g (1.5 lb) filleted firm fish (smoked haddock, cod, salmon, pollock)
900ml (1.5 pts) milk
2 bay leaves
handful of peppercorns
50g (5 oz) peeled prawns
60g (2 oz) flour
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
100g (3 oz) cheddar cheese

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Peel the potatoes and boil. Set aside once cooked; mash with half the butter and a little milk. Chop the eggs.

Place the fish in a separate pan with the milk, bay leaves, peppercorns, and remaining half butter. Bring to the boil, simmer for 1 minute, then set aside for 15 minutes. Remove the fish to a separate bowl with a slotted spoon. Once cool, flake it, removing any skin and bones. Mix in the eggs and prawns.

Return the pan to a low heat, add the flour, and whisk until thick. Add the mustard and season, then combine with the fish mixture. Pour into a baking dish and top with the mashed potato, making ridges with a fork and sprinkling over the cheese. Pop it into the oven for about 40 minutes and serve with peas.

Although eggs should have been used up on the last pancakes, this Toffee-apple crème brûlée is a bit of light in the darkness, and Lent need not be all fasting.

 

8 egg yolks
3 tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons cournflour
600ml double cream
1 vanilla pod (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
2 tart apples, peeled and cored
7 tablespoons brown sugar

 

Beat the egg yolks in a large bowl, stir in the caster sugar and cornflour. On the hob, place the cream with the vanilla in a pan, and heat to blood temperature (not boil). Pour the hot cream over the egg-yolk mixture, and whisk gently. Return everything to the pan and heat gently until it thickens, stirring all the time. It is important that it does not boil, and will soon coat the back of a spoon like a heavy sauce. Once you get to this point, divide between six ramekins and chill in the fridge.

Dice the apples and turn them on a low heat with the butter until all is combined and going a little golden. Now add the brown sugar, just shaking the pan as required, until everything goes caramel-brown. Try to avoid utensils, and pour this directly from the pan on top of each pot of cream to cool and harden into a crunchy disk.

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