As he enters Orléans in pursuit of Goldfinger in Ian Fleming’s 1959 novel, James Bond allows himself the daydream of a night at the Auberge de la Montespan, situated on the north bank of the Loire two kilometres south-west of the city centre, his belly full of quenelles de brochet, mousse-like fish dumplings made with pike. Traditionally, the mixture before cooking is refined by pressing it through sieves, but these days the food processor does the job equally well. If pike is hard to come by or is prohibitively expensive, then any white, flaky fish, such as cod or haddock, makes a good alternative.
- Approx. 300g (a little more or less is fine) pike fillet, skinned and boned
- 1 egg white
- 40ml double cream
- Pinch each of salt and pepper
- 1 tsp parsley
- 1 tsp dill
- 1½ litres fish or vegetable stock
For the sauce
- 15g plain flour
- 15g butter
- 100ml milk
- 2 tbsp double cream
- 1 tsp finely chopped parsley
- 1 tsp finely chopped dill
Coarsely chop the fish, place it in a food processor, add the remaining items except the stock and blend for 20–30 seconds or so until you have a smooth-ish paste. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 1 hour.
When ready to cook, bring the stock to a boil in a large saucepan over a high heat. Reduce the heat right down to its lowest setting so that the stock is very barely simmering—the occasional small bubble rising to the top should be the only clue that there is still heat below the pan.
Take a tablespoon of fish mixture and, with a second tablespoon, mould the mixture into an egg shape. You will probably need to pass the dumpling from one spoon to the other a few times to achieve a firm, smooth shape. (I haven’t tried it, but I imagine an ice-cream scoop would work well, although the dumplings will of course be round, rather than oval.) Gently drop the dumpling into the saucepan and repeat with the remaining mixture. You should be able to make 6–8 dumplings. Poach the dumplings for 8–10 minutes. As they cook, they will rise to the surface.
While they’re cooking, prepare a quick dill and parsley sauce. In a small saucepan, combine the flour and butter over a medium heat. When you have a smooth mixture, add the milk and stir until you have a thick sauce that is beginning to bubble. Stir in the cream, parsley and dill. (If the sauce is a little too thick—it should coat the back of a spoon but be thin enough to pour—add a little more milk or water.)
Divide the dumplings between two plates, and cover liberally with the sauce.