Haddock Monte Carlo

I love smoked haddock and love its versatility. My mum used to poach it in water, I used to poach it in milk but now use equal amounts of water and milk with a bay leaf and peppercorns. The poaching liquid usually becomes the sauce that goes with the fish but for this recipe, which emanates from the Savoy, possibly invented by Escoffier, it’s sauced with reduced cream flavoured with shallots and white wine. The colourful finale is diced, peeled and seeded tomato and a soft-poached egg. Some versions of the dish ‘call’ for spinach, quickly softened and hidden under the fish. I replied ‘yes’ when I made my version but am leaving it out here as it does make the recipe a tad tricky to get everything hot and ready at the same time. To make this for more than two, cook the fish in the oven (220C for 20 minutes); you want it skin side down in sufficient milk and water to cover, the dish covered with foil).

Serves 2

Prep: 15 min

Cook: 30 min

1 fillet naturally smoked haddock

approx 200ml milk

200ml water

1 bay leaf

6 black peppercorns

1 shallot

115g crème fraiche, preferably Neal’s Yard

3 tbsp white wine

1 tomato

2 eggs

1 tbsp vinegar

few sprigs flat leaf parsley

Cut the haddock into two equal portions and place skin-side down in a shallow enamelled or similar pan that can hold them snuggly. Pour over milk and water to cover. Add bay and peppercorns. Simmer gently over direct heat for 5 minutes then use a spatula to turn. Simmer for a further 10 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the shallot and place in a pan with the crème fraiche and white wine. Add a pinch of salt and simmer, stirring, regularly until reduced by half. Boil the kettle and pour boiling water over the tomato. Count to 30, halve, remove skin and seeds and dice the flesh. Half fill a small pan with boiling water, break one egg at a time into a cup and slip the eggs into briskly simmering water. Simmer for a couple of minutes until the white is set, the yolks still soft. Use a perforated spoon to scoop onto a fold of kitchen paper to drain. Use a knife to gently peel back the fish skin and lift the fish onto the middle of two warmed plates. Add a spoonful of milky cooking water into the cream and quickly boil again. Scatter tomato over the fish, spoon strained cream over the fish and balance an egg on top. Add a little finely chopped parsley leaves and serve.