cod mornay with cheese sauce

serves 2 very greedy people or 4 not so greedy

350g Cod loin
180g of Spinach
2 large Maris Piper potatoes – sliced very thinly using a Mandolin
3 shallots – finely diced
1 bay leaf
3 black peppercorns
250ml milk
50g of butter
Salt and pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
You'll also need 1 slice of bread whizzed up into breadcrumbs

to make the sauce:
75g butter
75g plain flour
170g Gruyere cheese
180ml of whole milk (plus 250mls of the milk used for poaching the fish)

Heat up a nice bit frying pan and put in the breadcrumbs, stirring all the while just get them to start to colour then remove and set aside.

Now wipe out the same frying pans and throw in the butter and heat it up.  Now add the chopped shallots.  Cook the shallots for five minutes or until they're nice and soft – you don’t want them to colour.  Add the washed spinach and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.  Keep the spinach moving about in the pan and once it’s wilted (a couple of minutes) turn off the heat and leave to one side.

In another smaller frying pan, heat up the 250ml of milk and then put the cod in along with a bay leaf and the peppercorns.  You’ll know when the cod is cooked as it will begin to show signs of flaking.  Once that’s happened, remove the cod from the milk but make sure you keep the milk.  Put the cod onto a plate and use a fork break it up.  It will naturally fall into flakes quite easily.  Don’t be mushing it up – keep those flakes of cod looking good!

Now peel and very thinly slice the potatoes using a mandolin.  Lay the potatoes in a shallow dish with a little water.  Cover with cling film, make a couple of holes and pop it into the microwave for about 50 seconds – the time of course will depend on the wattage of your microwave and how thinly you sliced those potatoes!  

You just want them to be cooked a bit because they may not get cooked enough in the oven before the cod is well and truly ruined otherwise.  Also there’s nothing more horrid than underdone potatoes.

Get yourself a medium sized saucepan and add the butter, once it’s melted add the flour. Cook for a minute, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Now add the milk you poached the cod in, a little at a time stirring all the while, now add the 180ml of milk, stirring continuously on the heat until the sauce bubbles and begins to thicken.  Turn down to a simmer and cook for around 5 minutes so the flour is cooked.  Why?  Because if you don’t cook the flour your sauce will be lumpy.  

Remove the sauce from the heat stir most but not all of the grated cheese.  Keep some for sprinkling on top. Add a dollop of the sauce to a buttered 10 inch gratin dish or similar. 

Do a layer of potatoes and season lightly with salt and pepper, then spinach, then potatoes again seasoning with a little salt and pepper.  Then do a layer of fish, the rest of the sauce and sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and grated cheese.

Bake at 170C 325F or Gas 3 for 40 minutes. Serve with some nice peas.