This is quite a retro dish but it's so good I think it's due a renaissance. Flaky, juicy fish, combined with spinach and the fresh pop of tomatoes, blanketed in a smoky, cheesy sauce, topped off with a crisp thatch of breadcrumbs. Heavenly. Yes, rather an over-use of adjectives there, but I think they're justified.
Please don't skip the tomatoes, their slight acidity cuts the richness of the dish. New potatoes and a spoonful of garden peas or French beans are all you need on the side.
Smoked Haddock and Spinach Mornay (serves 2)
300g undyed smoked haddock, the thick end of the fillet
300 ml milk
2 bay leaves
Bundle of parsley stalks tied with a thread
8 black peppercorns
2 or 3 tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and diced
25g plain flour
50g Cheddar cheese, grated
Nutmeg, a few rasps
1 tbspn grated Parmesan
1 heaped tbspn breadcrumbs
Rinse the spinach, shake dry, remove any big ribs and wilt in a pan. Drain, squeeze dry and chop. Set aside.
Cut the haddock into two even portions and put in a deep frying pan with the milk, parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns.
Put on a lid, bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Leave to one side for 10 minutes with the lid still on, then remove and carefully peel off the skin. Put the fillets on a plate, covered with foil, somewhere warm. Strain the liquid into a bowl.
Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour and cook off for a minute on a low to medium heat. Gradually stir in the strained milk to make a thick sauce. Add the Cheddar and cook, stirring, until blended and glossy. Grate in a few rasps of nutmeg, then add black pepper and salt to taste, remembering the fish is quite salty.
Pre-heat the grill and butter a gratin dish. Re-heat the spinach in a pan then put a layer in the bottom of the gratin dish, topped with the smoked haddock. Scatter with the diced tomato.
Pour over the sauce, sprinkle with the Parmesan and breadcrumbs and grill until golden brown. Eat straight away. You can thank me later.