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
35g plain flour
400ml hot milk
12 turns black pepper
2 pinches salt
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
300ml white wine
Juice of one lemon
100ml double cream
2g chopped parsley
2g Colman’s English mustard
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.
1 litre water
30g warmed milk
500g peeled potato, roughly diced
1.5g milled black pepper
Drop potatoes into the cold water with 8g salt, place on the heat and bring to a slow simmer for 3045 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
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
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.