Comfort food

Occasionally I become what some might consider excessively excited over meals I’ve particularly enjoyed. Last night’s dinner was one such example, leaving me as excitable and animated as a small child. Initially the plan had been to cook some mackerel (because it’s cheap not to forget full of all those omega threes we’re supposed to eat so many of each week.) But the supermarket was sold out of mackerel, so we picked up some haddock fillets that were on offer instead. By the time the evening came around, the idea of what was initially intended to be a healthy fish dinner was fairly well abandoned. I made a cheese sauce and stewed some tomatoes, layered them both up with the fish in a baking dish and topped with grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Bubbling cheesy sauce, with a crisp and golden topping, freshened up a little with the tomatoes. This was comfort fish food at its best. Served with crispy cubes of rosemary potatoes to dip in all the sauce and I couldn’t really be much happier.

Cheese and tomato fish bake

Serves 4

  •  500g haddock fillet (or other white fish), skinned and cut into large pieces (about the size of a pack of cards)
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 5 tomatoes, peeled and sliced (retain all the juices)
  • pinch sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 20g butter
  • 20g flour
  • 400ml milk
  • 100g Cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • a large handful of fresh breadcrumbs
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. To make the tomato sauce, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Add the onions and garlic, stir until well coated in the oil, cover the pan and cook the onions until completely soften but not coloured. Add the tomatoes, along with the juice, to the pan. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Stir in the chopped parsley. Cook uncovered for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes are softened to form a thick, chunky sauce. Set aside
  3. For the cheese sauce, make a roux by melting the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Add the flour and mix well. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase the heat and gradually whisk the milk into the roux. Boil the sauce gently for about five minutes until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in 70g of the grated cheese until melted, followed by the mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Cover the base of an oven-proof dish with half of the cheese sauce. Lay the fish pieces over the sauce. Cover the fish with the tomato sauce and then cover with the remaining cheese sauce. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the dish, followed by the remaining 30g of grated cheese.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes until the topping is golden, the sauce bubbling and the fish cooked through.
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