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I love setting fire to things. I know my brother does too, but then he became a fireman. I particularly love setting fire to things when Jamie’s away for some reason. I think it’s because it feels radical, in some silly, look at me with my toddler, getting the paraffin out, way. Mixing fire with food is obviously the ultimate, so what better than to experiment with the dinner I was to cook my dear friend, Anna.

She was to come over as she wanted to chat; childfree! How exciting. Although it may seem that we’re constantly socialising, be it in museums, art galleries, cafés or more often than not, pubs, it’s actually pretty stressful seeing friends with children as you can’t really take your mind off them and so conversation is staccatoed by one or other child tantrumming, screaming, falling over or just demanding your attention by being very cute, damnit. So although initially I thought I’d do something pretty bog-standard with the rainbow trout fillets I’d already got, I soon wanted to do something special, as it’s not often we have dinner on our own. Either that, or I just wanted to play with fire.

So, I made the pastry whilst Molly was napping (takes less than five minutes). I chucked the chives in with the pastry, as they’ve suddenly sprung up in the past week, which is a lovely reminder that soon delicious things will grow in the garden. Once Molly was up, I persuaded her that what she really wanted to do was to help me set fire to some old branches that were never going to compost down, and then smoke some trout in a tin. She was ecstatic (I’m sure she understood everything). So with the aid of paraffin to get the wet wood going, we had a lovely burny burny. The tin is an old Hovis bread tin that we’ve used before. All you need is a tin big enough to fit whatever you’re going to smoke, with lid. Poke some holes in the lid and sides. Then make a little grill (we used chicken wire) to sit halfway down the tin, and put a couple of handfuls of sawdust in the bottom, and place the grill on top. Then put the fillets in, close the lid, and whack on the fire (you could do this on a gas hob, but you’d stink the house out). I reckon it took about 8 – 10 minutes (in the meantime Molly did some weeding and I chopped up wood for the night’s fire). Remove from fire carefully, and allow to cool. Excellent.

Hot-Smoked Trout, Pea and Feta Tart – Serves 4 – 6

The Filling

2 rainbow trout fillets, hot-smoked

2 shallots, thinly sliced

Couple of handfuls of peas

Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Zest and juice of 1 lime

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

400ml of part full-fat milk, and part crème fraîche

Pinch of grated nutmeg


Handful of feta cheese, diced

The Pastry

Handful of chives, finely chopped

200g plain flour

100g butter, preferably cold

Cold water

To Serve:

Buttered new potatoes


Pre-heat the oven to 180c. Grease a metal tart / quiche tin. Rub the butter and flour together, to form a breadcrumb-like consistency. Add the chives, then slowly add water until the dough is formed and no crumbs are left (a good splosh). Wrap in clingfilm and leave in fridge for at least half an hour.

On a dusted surface, roll pastry out to desired size to overlap the tin. Press firmly down into tin, and prick all over with fork. Put baking paper and then baking beans on top (as per my other quiche recipe), and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Then remove paper and beans, and ‘blind bake’ for a further 10 minutes. Then the pastry is ready for the filling…

Flake the fish into chunks in a bowl and marinade in the lime and parsley, whilst you cook the other ingredients. Melt a large knob of butter in a pan, slowly frying the shallots until golden. Cook the peas for five minutes in boiling water. Measure out the cream and milk, and then mix in the eggs (beaten), season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Then fill the tart…

Layer the shallots, then flake the fish on top, pouring over the cream mixture. Then sprinkle the peas, parsley and lastly feta on top. Place in oven and bake for at least half an hour (until the mixture is firm to the touch).

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