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Sarah x

Fish Pie (the easy way)

After all the cake I have been baking/blogging recently, I thought it was time for something different and with the arrival of my aunt from New Zealand I thought this was something I could prepare ahead of time and just stick in the oven when I needed it.

Now, this is barely a recipe as it involves very little cooking and more assembling.  So it's more of an exercise in purchasing and emptying than actual cheffy finesse.  However, if you are short on time and have finally realised that sometimes the shop-bought stuff is actually better, then this is the recipe for you.  The Mother-in-Law has actually asked for this recipe, which was a test in truth or dare.  Do I dare tell her I whipped it up from scratch from my own intuition or do I tell the truth - it all comes from Waitrose and I merely plopped it in the dish....Anyway, back in the days when toast was a challenge I would have loved this 'recipe'!

Get about 500g of fish pie mix from the fish counter.  This is nicely skinned/boned chunks of cod, smoked haddock and salmon.  Put them in the bottom of a lasagne dish and scatter a handful of frozen, shelled prawns over the top.  Next empty the contents of a large tub of cheese sauce over the fish and stir it through carefully.  Sprinkle some frozen peas over the mixture and set aside.

Make up a good wodge of mash - I use about 8 medium potatoes and mash it with a large knob of butter and some whole milk or single cream.  Mash and mix until it is creamy and not stodgy.  If you're feeling a bit 'Abigail's Party' you can put it in an icing bag and pipe the mash on in stripes using a big Mr Whippy nozzle.  Or you can just plonk it in the middle of the dish and spread out carefully until all the fish mix is covered.

Grate a knob of cheese over the top and sprinkle with a tsp of paprika (not as much as I put on in the picture...slightly heavy-handed and got it in my coffee, which was an interesting taste...pepped it up a bit!).  Then bake in the oven at 180ºC for about 45mins.  If the top looks like it's burning, lay a piece of foil over it.

Hey presto!  Very easy, very cheaty but very tasty fish pie!  Costs about £12 to make and feeds 4 hungry adults or 6 modest ones!


There seems to be a lot of talk about vegetarianism at the moment, with a host of chefs bringing out veggie cook books.  Gone are the days of labelling vegetarians as 'hippies' and offering them a stuffed mushroom on the menu.  Today, it is not only acceptable to be a veggie, but is now being positively encouraged by a new wave of gourmet chefs.

My Story

I am a vegetarian.

I became a vegetarian at university where I took a course on animal ethics and watched, in horror, at the way many animals were kept and killed.  I'm sure if the ready supply of organic meat was around then I would have eaten that as it complies to my principles, but it wasn't (to my knowledge) and I certainly couldn't have afforded it anyway.

I have been vegetarian for 18 years except for 6 months spent working in Germany, where it was pretty much impossible to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle (I found the Germans like their meat!).  I was touring with a theatre company and I recall one lunch in a restaurant where I ordered pasta and parroted out my finest German...'Ich bin vegetarisch.  Kein fleisch'. They brought me spaghetti carbonara, complete with small chunks of ham.  I pointed to it - 'Das ist fleisch?' I asked? They looked and pooed-pooed me as if these tiny bits of ham barely counted as meat (this is a nation that eats raw mince on a roll).  I grew accustomed to picking bits of meat out or going hungry.  In the end, I gave in.  Bratwurst won.

When I say I am vegetarian I unfortunately feel I need to clarify what that means. As I had to countless times to many, many people:

Yes, I am vegetarian.

No, I don't eat chicken.

Or fish.

No, no meat at all.

Yes, I do eat eggs.  

And cheese.  I'm not vegan.

Or 'fruitarian'...ha ha ha (bloody Notting Hill!)

Yes, I do wear leather, thanks for pointing that out.  As I said, I'm not vegan.  

I don't eat meat because I don't agree with the way many animals are farmed.

Yes, I do let my children eat meat.

Yes, I do 'actually like' veggie sausages.
No, I'm not judging you - please don't judge me.

I am not telling you not to eat meat, I am simply saying I don't.  Please stop waving that sausage in my face saying 'ooh, piggy!'  Are you trying to be offensive, funny or both?

And so on.....
I know there are a lot of vegetarians who do spout on about 'meat is murder'.  I am not one of them.  I believe everybody has the right to eat what they choose and make their own decisions about the ethics of food.  I wish others would pay me the same compliment.

I know it is a pain in the arse if a lone veggie comes and spoils your dinner party.  We are used to bringing our own food to such things or can offer a suggestion if you are stuck for ideas.  Don't smite us.


Two years ago, when I was pregnant with my third child, I wanted fish.  Except for habit/it felt wrong, I couldn't come up with a convincing argument why I shouldn't allow myself to have it.  In a world where organic meat and responsibly farmed fish is readily available, there was no reason I couldn't eat meat and maintain my beliefs.  So, I ate fish.  Then, having tentatively stepped on to the slippery slope, I ate sausages.  And bacon.  (It was at this point that I smiled serenely as a flurry of people laughed at me and said 'It's always bacon that gets you!  Ooh, was it good?  I knew it was a fad! 18 years, Mother!).

So, for two years now, I have been eating meat.  There is still meat I can't eat because it simply tastes too 'meaty' - lamb, for instance.  I have never and would never eat offal.  I still can't watch cookery programs where they hack up the animal and cook it.  I still feel guilty about eating meat and every meal is accompanied by a thought of the animal that died.  I just can't help it.  And although it is much easier as a family, I suspect some day I will give it up again.  At heart, I am a vegetarian, just a non-practising one.

I am a vegetarian who eats meat.

originally posted on Hello Wall...

Fantasy Cake

This is a recipe from Lisa Faulkner's book and it is divine.  Because of the fruit and almond contingent, I reckon it is best described as 'if you like bakewell tart, you'll LOVE this.' Ideally, it should be served warm.  And with 400g of fruit in it, surely a contender for one of your 5-a-day?  It's not pretty, but it's beauty lies within.....

Line/grease a 23cm, loose-bottomed tin.  Cream together 175g of unsalted butter and 150g caster sugar.  Then add 150g sifted self-raising flour, 100g ground almonds, 2 eggs, 1 tsp almond extract and mix together well.

Fold in 400g soft fruit (well, keep a bit aside to adorn the top).  I use half/half raspberries and strawberries, but the lovely Lisa recommends you try what you like!  When folded in, spoon into the tin and scatter the leftover fruit on the top.  Bake at 160ºC for about an hour - it depends on your oven.  Mine cooks fast, so the cake is done in 50mins, but the book recommends 1hr - 1hr15mins.

When baked, and be careful not to overcook, carefully turn the cake onto a wire rack to cool (hallelujah for Bake-O-Glide - this is when it comes into its own!).

When the cake is still warm, serve and enjoy.  But watch out!  It's very moorish....*wipes tell-tale crumbs from mouth*

Silent Sunday #4

Easy tray bake (with icing)

This is a very easy tray-bake/birthday cake/bake sale type of cake.  I made two this morning for my son's birthday party tomorrow, but they are so easy you could easily rustle one up as a pud or a snack.

To make the cake, I preheated the oven to 160ºC and greased/lined a 20x20cm baking tin.  Then I mixed together (I used kitchenaid with paddle) 110g self-raising flour, 110g caster sugar, 110g softened unsalted butter, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 large eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract (don;t smash it on the kitchen floor like I did...).  Whizz it all together and spoon into the pan.  Try to level it out as best you can and get it into the corners properly.  Bake for 16 minutes then turn out, top side down onto a wire rack to cool.  This gives you a nice flat surface for your icing to go on.

To ice it I mixed 200g icing sugar with 55ml of boiling water then added a pinprick of gel colouring.  I find it best to dollop it all into the middle of the cooled cake and gently spread it out with the back of a spoon to the edges.  Whilst the icing is soft, scatter your favourite sprinkles/edible glitter and leave to 'set'.  I cut it into 9 squares, but you can go bigger or smaller according to your needs.  To fancy it up, sometimes I put a square in a cake case to make it look more presentable but you can, of course, sneak a slice and eat it from your hand!  

To adapt mine into birthday party cake I coloured my icing pale blue (although it looks white on the photos), sprinkled sugar strands and edible glitter over it and later added a ribbon to hide the sides and stuck in a few candy coloured candles.  Easy to make, easy to cut up and easy to eat makes it a good option for those manic toddler parties....