As you will no doubt be aware, our car engine self destructed on the autoroute just outside Rennes at the beginning of January and needed over 3 grand spending on it to repair it. We have spent the last month debating the best course of action and after going up many blind alleys, new engine, reconditioned, secondhand car, brand new car, all worthy contenders and all feasible if you have the money in the first place!!!!!!!!!!
There cannot be many people who can put their hands on over 3000 euros at the drop of a hat to repair a 9 year old car that just weeks later was due for the French version of the MOT and whilst I am fairly confident it would have passed, there was a lingering doubt that if it needed more work and more expense, what would we do then. Even worse, what if it had failed the test and was irreparable, we would have lost 3300 euros and got nothing.
On top of this was the thought that if we had to get a secondhand car, we would get nothing for the old one, a car that cost us nearly nine grand less than 5 years ago. We did not pay that much, the insurance paid out for the previous car I wrote off on black ice coming back from Caen.
All this and a car sitting at a Renault garage 135 Km from home.
Well in the end we went to our local Renault dealer and told them our tale of woe. We were offered 2 grand for the old car as part of the French version of the scrappage deal if you buy a new car. We went for the cheapest they had and we await delivery of a fire engine red Renault Twingo sometime in March.
The moral of this tale is that if you have a car like a Renault Laguna, ie one with a camshaft belt that needs changing regularly, do not ignore it no matter what it costs to replace because if it breaks your engine will be so much junk metal.
Having now got our lives back on a relatively even keel, I will now talk food and as inconsistent as ever rather than do what I said I would do in my last missive when I said I would be passing on French local recipes, instead I am doing Cornish pasties and seafood and fish pie, about as English as you can get.
There is method to my madness in as much as several of our friends have been asking for the recipe for my wife’s famous Cornish pasties for quite some time but first the fish pie.
As you know I am a huge fan of Rick Stein and in his book A taste of the sea, he describes a fish pie which is made by a Frenchman at a restaurant in England and who is a great lover of English cuisine.
I have used pieces of fresh salmon and haddock, fresh and smoked in the recipe before and also frozen Pollock with frozen mussels or seafood cocktail. It really does not matter, they all work fine.
To start you need a large shallow pan, the amounts are for a generous pie for 2 people, up the amounts accordingly for more people.
Put a pint of milk, half a sliced onion and juice of half a lemon in the pan and bring to boil, simmer for five minutes. Put the fish, I used about a half a kilo of thawed pollock but that is quite generous, I love fish, in the milk and poach gently until cooked. Remove the fish from the milk and onion and keep separate. Next make a roux of sunflower margarine and plain flour and then strain the milk through a fine strainer, I use a spoon to push on the onion to get as much of the liquor into the sauce as possible and mix the milk a bit at a time into the roux making sure there are no lumps. When the sauce is the right consistency I add a small handful of grated cheese, in this case cheddar but sometimes emmental. In a large ovenproof bowl I layer the cooked fish and thawed and shelled prawns and thawed seafood cocktail and then pour over the sauce. I then smooth creamy mashed potatoes on top and put in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes and voila the best fish pie ever in my opinion anyway. I think in some circles it is called Admirals Pie but hey what do I know?
Next up is the world famous and much asked for Cornish pasties recipe. Mrs Powerfulpierre wants me to say a couple of things before I reveal her secret recipe. First of all she does not want to offend any of our Cornish readers, she is well aware that there are other versions of this and the Cornish pastie name owes as much to the shape of the finished article as it does to the filling. Furthermore this is not the original recipe she started off with many years ago, rather it has been an evolving and improving recipe as experience has taught her better ways to make them. So without further ado, here is the recipe together with photographs taken by the lady herself.
For the shortcrust pastry
8 oz plain flour
4 oz fat butter/hard margarine/lard
The best pastry uses half lard, half butter/margarine
cold water to mix
1lb stewing steak cubed
2 large carrots peeled and cubed
1 large onion peeled and chopped
2 large potatoes peeled and cubed
Cook the stewing steak in plenty of water as this will make the gravy. In a pressure cooker this will take about 20 minutes, in an ordinary saucepan 1 to 2 hours or a slow cooker about 4 hours. Cook until the meat is tender adding the carrots to the meat in time for them to soften. they need 5 minutes in the pressure cooker, 15 minutes in the saucepan or if using a slow cooker put them in at the beginning. When cooked put in a colander to drain making sure you keep every drop of the gravy.
Make the pastry, rub the cold fat into the flour add cold water do not make it too wet. Roll out into 4 circles.
In the middle of each circle layer the fillings, first the diced potatoes and chopped onion then the cooked and drained carrots and the meat.
It is important to add a knob of butter or sunflower margarine if worried about cholesterol and a sprinkling of flour, Mrs P forgot this once and it was not the same, add salt and pepper to each pasty.
Moisten edges of pastry and join them up into a pasty shape, making sure the edges are well stuck together, make a couple of slits in each pasty with a knife for steam to escape. Bake in hot oven for 40 minutes.
These are giant pastys and are a meal on their own, serve with gallons of gravy and Mr P likes them with processed peas and Henderson’s relish, a Sheffield made delicacy not unlike Worcestershire sauce but in my opinion far superior.
Check it out here.