A friend called me the other night looking for a recipe for smoked fish, not salmon but smoked Cod or Haddock. She had eaten it in a trendy restaurant in Dublin recently and wanted to make it for some friends. My mum used to make smoked haddock in white sauce when I was a child. The vivid yellow of the fish made it look like junk food drowned in thick, glossy pure white sauce. I loved it with plain boiled potatoes and tons of extra butter. I told my friend what I remembered the recipe to be, her boyfriend, who was doing the cooking, found it frustratingly simple but the result was, they said, delicious.
The old-fashioned food a lot of us grew up on has an image of taking forever to prepare. And though some food is worthy of slow cooking fish never falls into this category. The only bad thing about cooking this dish it was that I was drooling so much while I was taking the picture that I didn’t do a good job. It’s not easy to make white fish with white sauce on a white plate look good, I did my best.
When you go to buy your fish (any good supermarket will sell it) you will see luminous colour glaring out at you from the counter. Ask for naturally smoked fish, which isn’t always on display. This has a more natural smoky colour, the other one is artificially dyed, I never knew. Use your own judgement for the quantities you need.
If you are having potatoes boiled or mashed, put them on to cook before you start with the fish.
Smoked haddock in White Sauce
Enough fish for 4 servings
1 litre full cream milk
1 small onion, sliced
1 bay leaf
25g plain flour
In a saucepan heat the milk with the onion and bay leaf, add the fish and bring to a low bubble
Turn off the heat and leave everything in the pan for five minutes with the lid on
Carefully strain the liquid from the pan and keep the fish warm, discard or keep the onions, it’s up to you
Rinse out the pan and put it back on the heat, add the butter and melt slowly. Sprinkle on the flour and stir to combine. This is the base for the white sauce. Cook this for a few minutes, stirring constantly.
Slowly pour on the milk from the fish and stir vigorously or use a whisk. Continue to add all the milk and keep stirring over a low heat. If the sauce seems too thick just add extra milk and keep stirring. Let the sauce bubble for a few minutes to cook.
Arrange your fish on plates or pile it all into a serving dish with the sauce poured over. Add a little freshly chopped parsley for colour. Sweet sugar snap peas or regular peas go great with this.