Fillet of pike with sauce Nantua

Serves 4
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Crayfish make a delicious sauce, similar to lobster or shellfish sauce. Quenelle de brochet Nantua is a classic French dish in which both main ingredients come from the river. Pike has an unusual bone structure, unlike most fish, and is a pain to bone from raw. That's why most recipes with pike are made into a mousselline.

Crayfish make a delicious sauce, similar to lobster or shellfish sauce. Quenelle de brochet Nantua is a classic French dish in which both main ingredients come from the river. Pike has an unusual bone structure, unlike most fish, and is a pain to bone from raw. That's why most recipes with pike are made into a mousselline.

I won't put you through the pain of making a mousse but what I will do is share a top tip which given to me by Mauro Bregoli. For many years, until, sadly, he recently sold it, he owned the brilliant Manor House in Romsey, Hampshire. His advice: Buy your pike filleted unless you are a dab hand with a filleting knife. You'll have to order it from a fishmonger. It will need to then be skinned and cut into portions of about 160-180g.

To cook, season the fillets with salt and freshly ground white pepper and steam them for about 10 minutes. If you haven't got a steamer, then lay them in a roasting tray with about 2cm of hot water in, cover with foil and cook in a moderate oven for 15 minutes. This causes the flesh to shrink a little, leaving the bones protruding so they can be pulled out with a pair of long-nosed pliers or tweezers. There are lots of bones so be patient - it's worth it. The fish can then be pan fried in olive oil and butter, re-steamed or roasted in the oven.

Because the flesh of pike is very firm it will withstand double cooking and you can enjoy the flavour of pike as it is rather than being minced up and mixed with cream and eggs.

Pike fishing season is autumn and through the winter; most rivers and some lakes allow pike fishing all year round. If you can't get hold of pike from your fishmonger then turbot, brill or its cousin the zander (pike perch) will do the job nicely.

4 160-180g skinned pike fillets, steamed and deboned as above
16-20 crayfish

for the sauce Nantua

Make the nage from the recipe above. Add the crayfish to the simmering liquid for 7 minutes and plunge them into cold water. Remove the meat from the shells and the claws if they are big enough. Break the shells up a little with a heavy knife and save.

Crayfish shells from above
4 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
A little vegetable oil for frying
A good knob of butter
1 dessertspoon of flour
A good pinch of saffron
A few sprigs of tarragon
1¿2 tbsp tomato puree
60ml white wine
200ml fish stock (a good cube will do)
350ml double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, fry the crayfish shells, shallots and garlic over a medium heat in the vegetable oil for about 6-7 minutes until they begin to colour lightly. Add the butter and flour and stir well into the shells. Add the saffron, tarragon, tomato puree and stir well. Gradually stir in the white wine and hot fish stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce has reduced by about half then add the cream.

Season lightly with salt and pepper, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes until the sauce has reduced by half and thickened. Strain the sauce through a colander into a bowl and stir through the shells with a spoon to ensure all the sauce goes through. Remove about 10 per cent of the shells - about half a cup - and blend with the strained sauce in a liquidiser. Strain through a fine meshed sieve.

Cook the pike fillets, either by frying in olive oil for 2-3 minutes on each side, then add a small knob of butter and continue until the fillets are lightly browned. Or pre-heat the oven to gas 7/200ºC/ 400ºF, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a roasting pan and roast the pike fillets for 10-12 minutes or until lightly coloured. Meanwhile simmer the sauce until it is coating consistency (if it isn't already) and drop the peeled crayfish tails into the sauce for one minute to re-heat them. To serve spoon the sauce over the fish fillets. E

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