For some reason, I never tend to feel satisfied and full after a meal, unless it is accompanied by some level of guilt. I have to have The Naughty to feel The Nourishment.
My plate can be piled high up with the freshest, steamed greens, fat-free protein with a side of blah, but unless I steal one forkful of my husbands’ pasta on the way to rinse my dinner plate, it’s as if I never ate at all. Of course, the trick is to make our dinners seem decadent and dangerous when in fact they aren’t at all. I find the homely one-pot meals do the trick here, because we associate those kinds of warm meals with heavy, pleasing winter dishes our grandmas made to fatten us up.
I hope the title of my latest creation did not put you off. “FISH PIE” was my first choice, but the look on my husband’s face when I told him so, swiftly encouraged me to seek out a more appetising title.
I made this on the weekend – it was so delicious; I had the leftovers for breakfast the next day! True story.
Humble Sunday Seafood Bake – Serves 4
2 Pieces Frozen Haddock – defrosted
2 Pieces Frozen Hake (any white fish) defrosted
10 Large Prawns – defrosted
1 Cup Frozen Peas
5 Large Black Mushrooms – sliced (*OPTIONAL)
10 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
2 Large Potatoes – peeled and cubed (about 500-600g)
¼ Cup Fat-free Milk
1 tsp Mustard
Salt and Pepper
¾ TB Low-fat Margarine
¾ TB Flour
75ml Fat-free Milk
25g Grated Low Fat Cheese
2 TB Sesame Seeds
For this kind of mid-week meal, I don’t recommend splashing out on fancy prawns that you have to clean and shell yourself. It’s bad enough I get the prawn guts in my hair on the weekends when we grill tiger prawns on our braai … but at times like this – I am all for convenience. The packets of frozen prawns available in our stores are shelled, cleaned, deveined – and blanched (partially cooked). And they are of a decent size as well. Buy the fattest ones you can afford.
As you can see, most of the ingredients above are frozen.
It’s because that’s how real people live.
IF I had it my way, I would take my ‘bicycle’ and ride down to an outdoor vegetable market (with a happy, funky soundtrack in the background) and sniff out the fresh stuff… followed by laughing, chatting and flirting with local fishermen at the harbour (all in slow motion) while listening intently why I should buy catch of the day.
But I don’t live inside Channel 180. And neither do you.
Preheat your oven to 200 deg C, and begin by making the mashed potatoes. Boil them until tender and mash with ¼ cup fat-free milk, mustard and salt and pepper. Set aside.
Defrost the fish and prawns completely whichever way you prefer (I place mine inside a colander and leave over the sink for a few hours.
If you don’t have a steamer, get one. The uses are endless and the plastic, microwave ones are inexpensive. Place the prawns in the microwave steamer for 2 minutes. Remove and place on absorbent paper – and then place the 4 fish pieces inside the steamer for 5 minutes.
While the fish is steaming, cut your prawns in half. This is a clever tip to make 10 prawns look like 20. I saw a restaurant did this once, and while I was horrified at the cheek of it, I made a mental note to do the same myself. Cut them in half lengthways, where the vein used to be – so they retain their ‘prawn’ shape, as below:
After the fish has steamed, remove them and place on paper towels. Don’t be alarmed if the fish is not cooked through, the steaming was just to give it a head-start, and the baking will be done in the oven later. Cut the fish into pieces and place in a large bowl, together with the prawn pieces.
Run your fingers along about 10 sprigs of fresh thyme so that the fresh leaves fall into the fish mix. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Be generous, use more if you wish.
In a small pot of boiling water, throw one cup of frozen baby peas. Leave in for several minutes, DRAIN VERY WELL, and add to the fish mix. *At this point, you can also add chopped mushrooms – but that is optional. I will explain why near the end.
Add the whole mix into a deep, lightly greased oven dish. (same one you use for lasagna)
Whip up a quick white sauce in a saucepan; using the flour, margarine and milk, and whisk over heat continuously until a thick consistency is achieved. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir in the cheese. Pour this over the fish mix and top with mashed potatoes.
NOTE: Substituting milk, cheese and butter with less thigh-thundering options such as fat-free milk, low-fat cheese and extra-light margarine – cuts out so many calories, you will wonder why you never made these changes earlier. Change the way you shop, always opt for the fat-free version, and remember LOW fat does not mean no fat. If given the choice, always go for the ZERO fat option. If you have an issue about worrying about calcium intake – take a supplement and enjoy dropping a dress size.
For those of you that still adamantly believe butter is ‘better’ than margarine, I can agree with you that it TASTES better, but it will kill you faster. Butter contains high levels of saturated fat (the kind that sits in your arteries), whereas some great margarines on the market at the moment are made from essential plant (HEALTHY) oils – which are important in lowering cholesterol. There is a reason the Heart Foundation logo appears on margarine, and not on butter. I am not saying ban butter completely, just be weary in your daily cooking. And the next time someone bores you with how much “better” butter is for you, ask them when was the last time they had their cholesterol checked – or take a peek how much junk is in their trunk, and ask them Dr Phil-style: “ … and how is that working for you?”
Generously sprinkle sesame seeds over the dish and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. This can serve 4 people, with a side salad.
NOTE: The addition of black mushrooms adds heaps of flavour, but unfortunately, can increase the liquid that accumulates at the bottom of the dish. It may be a good idea to make a hole or two in the topped mash to allow steam to escape. Also – adding black mushrooms can add bits of unappetising ‘grey’ colour. I personally love it WITH mushrooms and when I served, I simply used a slotted spoon and an open mind.