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While January is a strong contender for my least favourite month February runs it a close second. We are in the midst of the 'hunger gap' when there is a paucity of fresh local fruit and vegetables and the dark evenings and bleak weather don't help matters.

What is required in these circumstances is cheering and restorative comfort food and few dishes fit the bill better than a fish pie. I learned to make fish pie (and much else) from Nigel Slater's terrific book 'Appetite' (published in 2000) and what I like about his recipes is that he isn't too precise about quantities, temperatures and timing, allowing for plenty of flexibility. By his own admission making a decent fish pie is a messy business but the ends more than justify the means. It's actually a pretty straightforward process of poaching salmon and smoked cod with bay leaves in milk and then making a roux with butter and flour. Nige adds mussels to his but I think prawns are an easier option and just as tasty. You finish off by amalgamating all the ingredients in a large casserole and covering everything with a generous layer of mashed potato. An hour in the oven leaves plenty of time to clear up and I seldom look further than frozen peas as a vegetable side.

 

Food and wine matching - February 2017

 

This month's dry and zesty white Bergerac would make a good wine accompaniment but to some people's horror I have no problem pairing hearty fish dishes with light reds, and I would be just as happy with a lightly chilled glass of Saumur-Champigny or Fleurie. With drinks served you can then place your pie in the middle of the table and serve it nicely browned and piping hot to your family or friends. Maybe February isn't so bad after all...

 

February Wines of the Month: £85.00 per case delivered, saving £15.90 on list prices.