The crossover cook

Cross-cultural marriages create crossover cooks. My mother was one, and now so am I, cooking Western food almost as often as Asian, with my own set of acquired instincts and approaches within this newer repertoire.

This recipe was given to me long ago in Cambodia by an East Malaysian friend, when our first children were toddlers. She is married to a Frenchman.   At the time she employed a wonderful Vietnamese cook who sometimes would materialise at my door bearing a large crème caramel. Between the two of them (my friend and her cook I mean, not the husband) they produced beautiful food – savoury, wholesome and suited to children’s palates.

I guess this is a French recipe, if only because her handwritten recipe specifies herbes de Provence. She also did not write in the method for making white sauce (which I have added) – proof, in hindsight, she was a true crossover cook.

Baked fish with cheese

  • 1 large onion – chopped finely
  • Half a kg white fish fillet – lightly steamed or poached and broken into small pieces
  • 3 tomatoes, sliced
  • 3-4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • White sauce – make this by frying some chopped onion in butter, sprinkling about 1 tbsp flour over it (just the regular flour you use for baking cakes – NOT cornflour, or it will set like concrete), then slowly pouring in 1 cup of full-fat milk, stirring to ensure no lumps
  • Some grated cheese, divided into three equal portions

1. Fry half the chopped onion in oil. Add in the cooked fish. Season with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence.

2. Cook the remaining onion in the same way with the tomatoes.

3. Arrange the cooked fish mixture from step 1 in a well-greased baking dish. Add some grated cheese.

4. Arrange the cooked tomatoes from step 2 over the fish. Add some more grated cheese.

5. Arrange the sliced hard-boiled eggs over the top.

6. Finally, add some white sauce and sprinkle the whole lot with the last of your grated cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until brown.

Note: I seasoned this with my homemade celery salt; it does add a little something. For how to make your own, see this blog from the south of France and scroll down to the 1 September post. It’s been so hot and sunny here, I dried my celery leaves on the tiles by the swimming pool, not in the oven…

Since reading “The Metabolism Miracle” by Diane Kress recently (Da Capo Press, USA, 2009) I’ve been favouring carb-free recipes. I’m not sure if this counts as one, because of the white sauce, but at least it doesn’t rely on potatoes, rice or pasta to work.


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