This is a bubbling, hearty, unpretentious kind of dish – a last foray into overtly wintery food, perhaps, but still a welcome comfort while the evenings are cold. Smoked haddock and cream is one of those partnerships that is meant to be, the dairy enveloping the fish in a suave blanket and becoming infused with its mild wood-smoke flavour. The chard adds colour, texture and a fig-leaf of healthiness. I’d recommend a cleansing green salad alongside – some bitter leaves, perhaps, tartly dressed. And maybe a deep-crimson blood orange for pudding.
600g undyed smoked haddock fillet, skinned
500g rainbow chard (or a similar quantity of leaf spinach)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
300ml double cream
Juice of ½ lemon
¼-½ of a whole nutmeg
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
3 big handfuls finely grated parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
2 big handfuls breadcrumbs
Large knob of butter
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C Fan / Gas 4.
Boil the kettle and put the fish in a heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water over the top, gently pushing the fish down so it’s completely covered. Leave in the water for 5 minutes, then drain thoroughly. When it’s cool enough to handle, peel off any skin and check for bones.
Separate the chard leaves from the stems. Chop the stems into 4cm pieces and throw it into a large saucepan of boiling salted water. Let it bubble away for 5 minutes until the stems are soft, then add the leaves and cook for 2 minutes more until they wilt. (If you are using spinach instead, cook the whole leaves in the water until they just wilt.) Drain in a colander and leave to cool a little, then squeeze out the liquid with your hands and spread the chard over the bottom of an ovenproof dish – about 22cm square or the equivalent.
Break the haddock fillets into large chunks and place on top of the chard.
Make sure the saucepan you used for the chard has no water left in it. Tip in the cream and add the garlic and a couple of bay leaves. Bring to a boil, add the lemon juice, then stir for a minute until the cream has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan, mustard and a generous grating of nutmeg to taste – you’ll need at least 1/4 of a whole nutmeg. Season with black pepper, then pour the mixture over the fish, pressing down if necessary so things are covered. Scatter the breadcrumbs over the top and dot with flecks of butter.
Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the cream is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are golden and starting to catch around the edges. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes before you eat.
Lucas Hollweg is an award-winning food writer, cookbook author and cook. A former Sunday Times journalist and cookery columnist, he writes for a wide range of food publications. His most recent book is Good Things to Eat.