personal comfort food #5

comfort for perla, fish and cows 


icelandic mashed ‘fish’ with potatoes and rye bread


                 




Perla / 24

enjoys cooking:
“5/5 - I love cooking, it is my mindfulness, my ceremony!”
preferred textures/flavour:
“indulgent foods, like burnt butter and cheese, also fresh and pickled veggies, I like the contrast”
diet in three words:
“green / simple / respect (for ingredients)”
ultimate comfort food:
“traditional icelandic mashed fish: ’Plokkfiskur’”
why this meal:
“it’s a very nostalgic meal, like a lot of people I grew up eating it. It was actually the only meal that we usually bought premade, so it’s also convenient"
essential elements of the meal:
“It has to be ‘juicy’and a bit chunky, not too mushy! The potatoes should provide some texture, some people melt some cheese on top, but I don’t think that is necessary.. it needs a lot of fresh cracked black pepper!”


recipe


A co-designed recipe with Perla (my friend), showing care through a compassionate act of cooking together, forming a new version of traditional mashed fish, with fish and dairy free, comfort-for-all ingredients.

Establishing the essential comfort elements of the meal, and letting this guide us in the process. We had to cook apart with digital tools, due to us being in different countries. The goal was to recreate the feeling of comfort in cooking and eating the meal, minimizing harm to the planet and it’s beings in the process.



ingredients


- 1 medium head of cauliflower
- 500g potatoes
- vegan butter (ex. naturli)
- 1 sheet of nori
/ sauce:
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- salt and pepper
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 2 tbsp flour
- 500ml oat milk (or other unsweetened plant milk)
- 1tbsp of dijon mustard
/ sides:
- rye bread (preferably some traditional icelandic rye bread)  
- more vegan butter 
- lemon (optional)




P: what do you think about my choice of meal? U: Well I don’t think I have ever been a super big fan of the Icelandic ’mashed fish’ but I have always enjoyed it, it definitely feels like a nice nostalgic meal to me! P: right, I also think the convenience element plays a big role in this, it’s such an easy meal…”


instructions


Prepare two pots, one larger one for boiling the vegetables and a smaller one for making the creamy sauce. Rinse the potatoes and cut them into small bite-size pieces and place them in the larger pot. Fill the pot up halfway with water and boil on high heat, season the water with a good pinch of salt.




U: How do you feel about potato skins, do you want to leave them on or peel them? P: I like it with the skins on, both because peeling them is so boring but also because I like the flavour of the peel! U: perfect, I agree!“

Prepare the cauliflower by first removing the green leaves, then  cut off all the florets and roughly break them up into smaller pieces with your hands. Cut the rest of the core and stem into smaller pieces and then slice those pieces thinly. this way the tougher part of the cauliflower is cut smaller then the other parts and it will cook more evenly.


U: The purpose with cutting the cauliflower like this is to imitate the textures you usually get from the mashed fish. Some bits are very mushy while you also get bites of fish with a bit more bite. P: Right! like these fish layers...”
Now add the cauliflower pieces to the pot with the potatoes. To enhance the fishy ocean flavour, add one sheet of the nori seaweed to the pot, place on the lid and let it infuse with the veggies while they finish cooking.

In the meantime prepare the creamy sauce base. First chop the onion finely and add it to the smaller pot with some vegan butter and some neutral oil on medium heat.  Chop 1 large clove of garlic finely and add it to the onion.

 
U: Is this the first time you cook this ‘mashed fish’ yourself? P: Yes it is, and it’s nice that I am making it first as a vegan version. The mashed fish is something that I just get at my mom’s or precooked from the store, and then I also get it pretty often at work…”

When the onion and garlic has softened add a pinch of salt to the pot, the white pepper and the curry powder as well as a good amount of cracked black pepper. Lower the heat to medium-low and add a heaping tablespoon of flour to the pot with a bit more butter, Let the flour cook off for a little bit in the pot.
U: So since you are allergic to turmeric you of course skip the curry powder, but you can add tiny bit of the other spices you usually have in the curry powder… P: Yes I have some garam masala… U: I think that is perfect! In my memory there was never much of a curry flavour to the mashed fish, it was always very mild and a bit boring hahah, so I don’t think it matters so much!”
When the flour and butter has combined and thickened add a little bit of milk at a time, stirring in between, and trying to get rid of any lumps! When all of the milk is in the pot bring the temperature up to medium high, keep stirring until the sauce has thickened slightly. Then remove from the heat.



P: I have this idea to maybe add a tiny bit of saffron for the yellow colour, instead of the turmeric! U: Yes, that should be good, do that! Now I think the veggies should be ready! P: Yes they are! I think this looks amazing and so gross at the same time, it looks like I am boiling fish… and it smells like fish as well!”
Now it should be time to drain the water from the boiled veggies, make sure they are soft throughout. Add the drained veggies back to the big pot and combine with the creamy sauce, add the mustard and mix it up so that some pieces of potatoes and cauliflower break up while some remain a bit chunky. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

U: In true spirit of this meal I think we should make sure to under-season it a little bit, what do you think? P: Yes haha, I think that makes sense!” 
Plate up the mashed ‘fish’ with more black pepper and sliced ryebread with vegan butter on the side, Enjoy! 
  perla’s mashed ‘fish’ / una’s mashed ‘fish’

“P: Mmmm it’s so good, and it’s growing on me with every bite! U: Yes I think it thickens up a bit when it starts cooling down, which is nice! P: Yes, and I think it might just get even better the next day! P: And the nori makes it look a bit funny, but I think it gives it a more authentic look! P: ooh and I just squeezed some fresh lemon juice on top, that is really nice! U: Yes I tried that as well, its good with a bit of acidity!”

P: I am super up for making ‘mashed fish like this in the future! I don’t think I will have the need to use fish if I can make it like this! U: That’s great! and I also think you can try out different versions of this with other veggies like parsnip or celeriac, jus something white and mildly flavoured veggies! P: exactly, you could even mix them up, then maybe you would notice it a bit less that it is made from a vegetable… because now you can kind of taste the cauliflower, but that’s not bad! U: Yes definitely! P: and the flavour from the nori is subtle but really nice! U: Yes, you could also add more nori if you want more ‘ocean flavour’…”

U: I want to ask if you would say this version meets your comfort expectations? P: Yes, it’s a bit hard to say because I have never actually cooked the original from scratch, only had it from elsewhere.. so this is of course a bit more work than I am used to... but I really like cooking, so that is not a bad thing! U: right, It would of course be better if you could get this readymade at the supermarket! P: Right, but I think this is a meal that is very chill and comforting to make, and also it does feel really comfortable to make a nice big batch of food and have it for leftovers later! Yeah so I definately think it meets the comfort standard, while I also think it is like it’s own new thing for me! U: right, yes I think this is like the perfect meal to have as leftovers.

U: Thank you so much for doing this with me! P: Thank you!”