Soul food: Jamie Oliver on his mother's fish pie
The chef recalls his favourite meal while he was growing up over his parents' pub in Essex
By Jamie Oliver
I grew up in the pub that Mum and Dad still run in Essex – it must have been one of the first gastropubs. It was tiny when I was a child; we lived in two rooms above the restaurant. Downstairs, Dad made sauces, filleted fish, served up crab and lobster. Upstairs, Mum did most of the cooking. She was amazing at roasts and shepherd's pies, which she made in the commercial kitchen when the chefs had clocked off.
Her fish pie was my favourite. She made it with smoked haddock and cod and sometimes prawns and salmon, too, so there was always a little surprise. She poached them in milk with bay leaves and onions, then made the béchamel with the same milk, always adding cheddar, nutmeg and English mustard. She'd make a point of roughing up the mash, just like grout to stick your tiles up. An inch thick, with a really crispy top, it looked a bit tatty, but when the sauce bubbled up around the edge it was bloody delicious.
Mum and Dad are a great team. Dad would fire people and Mum would hire them again. I remember asking for pocket money when I was seven and Dad saying, 'No, you'll get £1.20 an hour and do whatever I tell you.' By the time I was 10 I could polish brass, wash up, peel veg. I learnt all the best stuff from them.
Jamie's Italian is now open at Gatwick North Terminal
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