Despite the predicted doom and gloom, it’s been the busiest start to the year we’ve ever had at both restaurants. Opening a third restaurant in the middle of February isn’t normally the best thing to do either, but the opening of Tom’s Place, a fish restaurant, has been a huge hit, and I’m most proud of its emphasis on being Green and the importance of buying fish from sustainable stocks.

My latest adventure was to Lowestoft by the North Sea. I’m always looking for suppliers who are doing something very special, and the two fishermen I met here certainly are. They catch cod by line only, so there’s no dragging of a beam or net along the bottom of the seabed, and the hooks are of a size that won’t catch undersized cod. The conditions are harder than any kitchen I’ve ever been in, with long hours and stormy weather.

Not everyone can get out to sea, but you can check the provenance of your fish: most of the major supermarkets are now selling sustainable fish, and will follow their customers’ leads, so make sure you demand the best.

It’s not just about looking for the ‘Dolphin-friendly’ label on a tin of tuna any more!

Find out what’s cooking at Tom’s restaurants at www.tomaikens.co.uk

FISH PIE

WHITE SAUCE

25g butter

35g plain flour

400ml hot milk

12 turns black pepper

2 pinches salt

METHOD

Melt the butter in a pan on a low heat, add the flour and cook for five minutes, stirring regularly. While this is cooking, pour the milk into a pan and bring it to a boil. Pour this little by little into the flour-and-butter mix, stirring all the time, with the heat on low so you don’t burn the bottom. Add the salt and pepper, and bring to a slow boil, cook for five minutes at low heat, then turn the heat off, sieve to remove any lumps, and leave it to cool. Cover with clingfilm to stop a skin forming.

WHITE WINE SAUCE

Makes approx ½ litre

500ml white sauce

150g onion, finely chopped

25g butter

300ml white wine

Juice of one lemon

100ml double cream

2g chopped parsley

2g Colman’s English mustard

METHOD

Melt the butter in a pan on a low heat, add the onion and cook on a low heat with a lid for five minutes so it sweats and doesn’t colour. Remove the lid, add the wine and reduce by two-thirds. Add the white sauce, mustard, cream and lemon juice, simmer for two minutes, stirring all the time, then turn off the heat. Place into a bowl to cool and cover with cling film. Once cold, add the parsley.

MASHED POTATOES

1 litre water

10g salt

30g butter

30g warmed milk

500g peeled potato, roughly diced

1.5g milled black pepper

METHOD

Drop potatoes into the cold water with 8g salt, place on the heat and bring to a slow simmer for 30–45 minutes. Once they’re just cooked and soft, tip the potatoes into a colander to drain very well. Finely mash them with the butter, then add salt and warm milk.

Makes about 500g (100g for a portion)

For the dish

Serves five

500g mashed potato

3x sole fillets cut into three

250g monkfish cut into 50g pieces

250g salmon cut into 50g pieces

6 scallops cut into quarters

20 cooked mussels

Egg-yolk wash

METHOD

Mix all the fish together and season with salt and pepper, mix in the white sauce, and place into the pie dishes. Pipe the mashed potato over it and bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 180˚C. Serve with a dollop of tomato ketchup.

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