I love the feeling of waking up to an overcast sky, when you instantly know that a storm is en route. It’s a cosy, cashmere sock-wearing, steaming hot bubble-bathing, endless mug of tea-drinking situation. You sit there at the window, snuggled inside in the warmth, counting the rumbles of thunder, trying to figure out how far off the storm is. Well. This seldom happens in Dubai, and on the odd day that it does, the rain rarely lasts for more than 10 minutes. That’s not even enough time to brew a cuppa and get comfortable. Fail. Luckily after many-a-year living in this ridiculously toasty desert, my British weather senses have somewhat adapted and now all it takes is a small herd of clouds.
Today was one of those days. My usual 7:30am dog walk in the sunshine was sun-less. Taking my sunglasses with me was completely pointless. All they got was a free ride around the block atop my head. To be honest, they were probably rather pleased to have a day off. Being a pair of sunglasses in Dubai is a full-time job. Enough sunglass chat.
With the weather getting on with its miserable business outside, it is the perfect opportunity to cook up a storm inside. Pun intended. Days like these call for rich sticky stews, chunky vegetable soups, and wholesome flavour-filled pies. One of my all-time favourites is Jamie Oliver’s Fantastic Fish Pie. My family have been making it for years – ever since The Return of the Naked Chef was first published 13 years ago. I like to eat a large helping with a side of crunchy seasonal green veg, cosied up on the sofa in front of a classic BBC drama. My current addiction – Luther. I highly recommend giving it a watch. But what I recommend even more is giving this incredible recipe a go! Now, the recipe says to use 455g of haddock or cod, but I often use 455g of whatever is fresh and available. Today I chose a mixture of cod and fresh shrimps, but I have previously used salmon, squid, and even mussels. Delicious. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do. Jamie Oliver – you are wonderful. Happy cooking y’all!
5 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 2.5cm/1 inch squares
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 free range eggs
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls of mature cheddar cheese
juice of 1 lemon
1 generous tspn English mustard
1 handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
450g haddock or cod fillets, skin removed, pin boned and sliced into chunks
nutmeg & a splash of milk for the mash
1/ Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas 8.
2/ Put the potatoes into salted boiling water and bring back to the boil for 2 minutes.
3/ Carefully add the eggs to the pan and cook for a further 8 minutes until hard boiled, by which time the potatoes should also be cooked.
4/ At the same time steam the spinach in a colander above the pan. This will only take a minute. When the spinach is done, remove from the colander and gently squeeze any excess moisture away.
5/ Drain the potatoes in the colander and mash with olive oil, salt, pepper, a splash of milk, and nutmeg to taste.
6/ Remove the eggs, cool under cold water, then peel and quarter. Place to one side.
7/ In a separate pan, slowly fry the onion and carrot in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes, than add the double cream and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, lemon juice, mustard and parsley.
8/ Arrange the spinach, fish and eggs in an appropriately sized oven-proof dish and pouring over the creamy vegetable sauce.
9/ Dollop the mash on top, making sure to cover the fish mixture, but leaving it reasonably messy so that the potato peaks can turn all golden and crispy in the oven.
10/ Bake for 25-30 minutes.