There is a wonderful dish called Omelette Arnold Bennett, created at London’s Savoy Grill in the late 1920s and named in honour of the novelist and playwright, who stayed at the hotel while writing his novel Imperial Palace. The recipe consists of omelette (or scrambled egg), topped with flakes of smoked haddock, then blanketed with a mixture of hollandaise, béchamel and cheese and placed under the grill until gilded with brown. It is one of those dishes that offers both deep savouriness and a duvet-like comfort. I found myself craving something similar this week and was spurred to make the recipe below. It’s a much simpler thing – a kind of creamy smoked-fish-and-cheese on toast – but with a similarly rich and old-school feel to it.
500g smoked haddock, preferably undyed, cut into 4-6 pieces
450ml double cream
2 bay leaves
A sprig of thyme
1 onion, peeled and halved
1 big clove garlic, crushed
2 medium leeks, trimmed, cleaned and finely sliced
100ml dry white wine
A good pinch of cayenne
About ½ a nutmeg, grated
Black pepper and sea salt
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
2 egg yolks
50g mature cheddar
4 big slices sourdough bread, well toasted.
4 tsp capers, drained, for scattering
Put the haddock in a saucepan with the cream, onion halves, bay, thyme and garlic. Bring to boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 3-4 minutes, until the fish just flakes when prodded. The cream will thicken as it simmers.
Remove the fish to a plate and discard any skin and bones. Scrape the cream into a small bowl and discard the bay, thyme and onion.
Wipe out the pan. Melt the butter over a medium heat, then add the leeks and sweat for at least 5 minutes until soft and sweet, but not brown.
Tip in the white wine and bubble until it has turned syrupy but not quite evaporated, then add the cream and stir together briefly. Remove from the heat and add the nutmeg, cayenne and a few grinds of pepper. Quickly beat in the egg yolks, then flake the cooked haddock and fold in with the chives. Taste and add a pinch of salt if needed.
Preheat the grill. Put the pieces of toast on a baking sheet and completely cover each one with the haddock mixture. Grate cheese over the top and grill for a couple of minutes until just tinged with brown.
Transfer to 4 plates and scatter capers over the top. Serve with lightly dressed salad leaves or watercress.
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.