Surgeon General is an confusing title as it suggests that a general may be in the business of saving lives rather than extinguishing them. This is particularly evident in his stern admonition, printed on each and every packet of cigarettes, that smoking will end badly for those of us foolish enough not to heed his words. We may count ourselves fortunate that fish can’t read for, if that were the case, our palates would certainly be the poorer for it. I can only admire their determination to fly in the face of accepted science and to selflessly carry on smoking for our benefit, albeit after they themselves have attained piscatorial peace in the smokey heaven of Valhaddock, better known to us finless folk as Arbroath or some other such eponym. Smoke and fish were made for each other. It is a rare fish that will not benefit from smoking despite the admonishments of the Surgeon General. Fish and fire would each seem to be both plentiful and affordable but the wonderful changes of flavour, and indeed colour, wrought by the alchemy of smoking come at a price. In the words of the admirable Withnail ” Free to those that can afford it, very expensive to those that can’t”. I fall into the latter category, therefore the piece of smoked haddock that I purchased would have needed a miracle to feed two people let alone several thousand. It has been my experience that dependence on miracles is rarely fruitful so I turned to the bookshelves which, in kitchen matters, have always provided me with more favourable results and so it proved to be once again. This is a combination of recipes which resulted in a very good smoked haddock tart which I believe would be approved by the Sturgeon General.
Smoked haddock tart (adapted from Mary Cadogan’s recipe in “Tarts and Pies”
Pastry (adapted from Patricia Wells’ Pate Brisee in Bistro Cooking)
150gms plain flour
105gms chilled, unsalted butter cut into small pieces
pinch of salt
30cl iced water
Put the flour,salt and butter in a food processor and process until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Add the iced water and process some more until the mix starts to hold together. Don’t let it form a ball. Place the dough on a lightly floured board and flatten into a disc. Wrap in waxed kitchen paper and put in the fridge for half an hour.
250gms smoked haddock
25gms plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
75gms grated Emmenthal cheese
salt and pepper
I/Preheat oven to 200C. Roll out the dough and line a 20cm tart tin. Prick the base, line with aluminium foil and fill with baking beans or rice. Bake for 15 mins. Remove from the oven and discard foil and baking beans, lower the oven temperature to 190C and cook the tart case for a further 10mins when it should have taken colour.
2/Make the filling. Poach the haddock in milk and conserve the poaching liquid. Skin and gently flake the haddock.
3/Make a roux with the butter and flour and slowly add the poaching liquid until a thick, smooth sauce is created. Season with salt and pepper.
4/Let the sauce cool for 5mins and then stir in the eggs, the haddock and cheese (leaving some cheese to sprinkle over the tart). Check the seasoning to your taste.Pour the mixture into the tart case.
5/Sprinkle with saved cheese and bake for about 25mins until the filling is risen and golden brown.