Baked Smoked Haddock Creams with Lemon-dressed Leaves
I always feel that first courses are difficult to get right, because you want something that's going to taste really good but at the same time won't be too much bother when you've got the main course to worry about.
This recipe first appeared in Sainsbury’s Magazine. Serves 6
Begin by removing the skin from the fish by making a slit between the skin and the flesh with a sharp knife, then simply pulling and stripping the skin off. Place the fish in a saucepan with the bay leaf and some pepper (no salt – there's plenty in the fish), pour in the milk, bring it up to a gentle simmer, then poach for 5 minutes with the lid on. After that, use a draining spoon to remove the fish to a plate, separate it into smallish flakes and divide them equally among the buttered ramekin dishes.
Now measure the cream into a heatproof measuring jug, add the egg yolks, chives and a little freshly grated nutmeg, then whisk them together thoroughly. Next, whisk the hot milk that the fish was cooked in into the cream mixture, discarding the bay leaf, then pour the mixture over the fish in the ramekins. Use a fork to gently lift up the fish pieces so they are not sitting right on the bottom. Now place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake on a high shelf for 15-20 minutes until they are set in the centre and the tops are golden brown.
To make the dressing, measure all the ingredients into a small screw-top jar and shake to mix well. To serve, let the haddock creams sit for 10-15 minutes to become firm, then run the blade of a knife round the edges, tip each one out into the palm of your hand and turn it the right way up again on to a plate.
If you want to make them in advance, they will re-heat in 15 minutes at the same temperature as above. Just before serving the haddock creams, pour enough dressing on the salad to lightly coat the leaves, then arrange them on the plate around each haddock cream.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C).