This Fish Pie has the taste of an old-time, homey recipe (April 2, 2011)

One of the real treasures I inherited from my mother was her cookbook, a large, ragged old tome that lost its cover sometime between World War II and the election of Pope John XXIII.

Aside from the recipes on its splattered and well-used pages, Mom had tucked into the pages hand-written recipes she’d collected from the various generations and traditions of our own family.

What I’ve loved best about the recipes in this 1943 Good Housekeeping Cookbook and, indeed, the additional recipes Mom gathered, is that they are largely simple and result in good, inexpensive, straightforward food – wonderful macaroni and cheese, casseroles of all manners, palatable soups and stews – the kind of food that translated to comfort back then in those dark wartime years and would do so again during these stressful, wartime days.

Not long ago, I came across cookbooks by a Canadian named A. Jan Howarth that are composed in the same, lovely manner, chock full of easy to follow recipes with easy to assemble ingredients.

Unlike the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, however, Howarth’s books, including The Complete Fish Cookbook and the Canadian Fish Cookbook, are devoted entirely to fish, which is only natural because she’s renowned among Canadians as a specialist in fish and shellfish cookery.

A professional home economist trained in Scotland, with experience in Paris, London and Vancouver, her recipes are culled from years of work in test kitchens and reflect the sensibilities of someone who truly enjoys cooking fish.

For this last in our series of Lenten recipes, I’ve selected two by Jan Howarth that my mother would most certainly have clipped out and tucked among the pages of her big, old book.

Fish Pie
– 1 lb. fish filets (cod, halibut, rockfish, haddock or lake whitefish)
– 1½ cups boiling water
– 1 cup potato, cubed
– 1 cup carrot, diced
– 1 cup celery, sliced
– ½ onion, chopped
– ½ green pepper, chopped
– ½ tomato, chopped
– ¼ cup mushrooms, chopped
– 2 tbsp. butter
– 2 tbsp. flour
– 1 tsp. oregano
– 1 tsp. salt
– ¼ tsp. black pepper
– 1 container refrigerated biscuits, or 2 cups mashed potatoes

Cut filets into 1-inch cubes. Add salt to boiling water, then add potato, carrot, celery, onion and green pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes until tender-crisp. Drain and reserve broth; if necessary, add water to make 1½ cups.

Mix together drained vegetables, tomato, mushrooms and fish; place in a lightly greased, 2-qt. casserole.

Melt butter in a saucepan and blend in flour and oregano. Gradually add reserved broth, stirring over medium heat until thickened. Add salt and pepper. Pour this sauce over fish and vegetables in the casserole. Open biscuits and arrange on top of the casserole or top with mashed potato.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until biscuits are golden. Serves 4 to 6.

Fish Filet and Olive Sandwiches
– 2 cups of cooked fish filets (any firm, white-fleshed fish may be used)
– 2 tbsp. lemon juice
– ½ cup green olives, chopped
– ½ cup mayonnaise
– salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and blend well. Serve on plain or toasted bread of your choice. Makes 8 sandwiches.

Let us pray
God of all goodness, through the breaking of bread together you strengthen the bonds that unite us in love.
Bless us and these your gifts. Grant that as we sit down together at table in joy and sincerity, we may always grow closer in the bonds of love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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