When you’re a bit stressed (I still have builders on the scene) you need something comforting to eat that is also going to nourish you and help your body cope with the stress. Last night I found all I had in the fridge was smoked haddock and the person I was cooking for let it be known that smoked haddock with e.g. poached egg and spinach (which I love) was not acceptable (he doesn’t like haddock much and draws the line at spinach). Now this was the point at which it was tempting to walk to the pub, quite possibly on my own, but instead, taking a deep breath and a large drink, I turned to Diana Henry, one of my absolute favourite cooks, and her book A Change of Appetite. Smoked Haddock with Indian-Scented Lentils relies on a life-enhancing combination of carbohydrate : lentils, bulgur wheat and small chunks of potato flavoured delicately and moreishly with curry powder, ginger, turmeric and cardamom, not forgetting the haddock itself. The dish pictured above is a slightly less interesting adaptation, par force, because I had no lentils and on closer inspection no bulgur wheat or fresh coriander either.
So lacking only two of the crucial ingredients I ploughed on and made a version with couscous and potato and fish but with all the crucial spices. It looks heaps more interesting when you do have the lentils to hand (the photo below the recipe is what it should look like) but it was nevertheless delicious and proved to be a way of getting smoked haddock into someone whose favourite fish it is not. It also spared me the ordeal of trying to order reasonably healthily in the pub when I was fed up and tired, a combination which tends to lead straight to fried food and puddings not to mention that extra glass of wine and wouldn’t a small Armagnac be a brilliant idea after such a hard day?
So don’t wait until you’re fed up and tired. You might even try getting in some of the listed ingredients before you try it out, but I urge you to try it. It’s a winner. (If haddock is not on your list of edible foods you can make it with smoked tofu or hard boiled eggs but some flavour will be lacking so you might want to add a few finely chopped spring onions.)
Smoked Haddock with Indian-Scented Lentils (4-6)
2 large onions
3 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
ground seeds of 10 cardamom pods
125g waxy potatoes peeled and cut into one inch chunks
100g bulgur wheat
1 litre home-made chicken stock (or, on planet earth, Marigold vegetable bouillon)
salt and pepper
150g Puy lentils (or a tin of cooked lentils if you have them)
50 ml double cream (or Elmlea substitute)
500g smoked haddock cut into large chunks
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped (Improvise if you don’t have this. Tarragon does well. Parsley. Spring onions. Anything green and finely chopped will do.)
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp soft dark sugar (or, in my case, sugar)
juice of half lime plus lime wedges to serve (no I didn’t have these either)
The ideal pan for this dish is a large straight-sided frying pan with a lid.
- Finely chop one of the onions. Finely slice the other for garnish later
- Saute the chopped onion in the butter until soft and then add the spices
- Cook for two minutes then add the potatoes, bulgur and stock and bring to the boil
- Season, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are cooked (10 mins?)
- Meanwhile cook the lentils according to the instructions on the packet but with a bay leaf and drain once they are tender (or open the tin!)
- Add the lentils and cream and most of the coriander to the ‘broth’ then add the fish and poach until cooked (5 mins?)
- While the fish is cooking fry the sliced onion in the oil and sugar until crispy
- Serve in large dishes with a squeeze of lime juice, caramelised onion and coriander on top.