Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Omelette Arnold Bennett

There are times when I like to cook things that are a little extravagant to eat but still quick to cook. I have always been a great lover of smoked haddock, ever since my grandmother first introduced me to her fish chowder which included it, along with fresh cod, potatoes and sweetcorn. Smoked Haddock is also one of the main ingredients in Omelette Arnold Bennett.

Arnold Bennett was an English writer, novelist and journalist, born in the late 19th century. Legend has it that the eponymous omelette was created for him whilst he was staying in the Savoy Hotel finishing one of his novels. The omelette still appears on the menu of the Savoy Grill and is one of its most popular dishes.

I have to admit, that I have long been fascinated with this dish, but had never tried it. I managed to get my hands on some lovely un-dyed smoked haddock and decided that now was the time to get around to it.

Be under no illusions, this is a rich dish consisting of a thick omelette, almost like a Spanish tortilla, topped with a rich hollandaise or béchamel sauce which includes generous chunks of softly poached smoked haddock. Restraint is not the order of the day here and everything is cooked in butter and then topped with some grated gruyère or parmesan before being finished off under a hot grill.

I absolutely loved this dish… it was incredibly delicious and the balance of flavours between the smokiness of the haddock, the slight saltiness of the cheese and the creaminess of the eggs and the béchamel sauce was just wonderful. All in all it took me about twenty minutes to make this recipe from start to finish, which was also another major plus.

Smoked fish and particularly smoked haddock, which is quite meaty can stand up to being paired with other strong flavours, without getting lost, but it is nice to add a little bit of freshness by the addition of a generous amount of chopped parsley. You could also add some fresh chives as their faint onion taste would also work well here.

Although, this dish is intended to be eaten hot, I found that the chilled leftovers made a particularly tasty packed lunch for me in work the following day.

The recipe that I give here is an amalgamation and adaptation of the recipes given by two of my favourite and most trusted food writers Delia Smith and Nigel Slater. Delia’s recipe can be accessed here and Nigel’s recipe can be accessed here


To poach the smoked haddock:
250g smoked haddock (natural and un-dyed if possible)
300ml milk
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
4-5 whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Béchamel sauce:
40g butter
30g plain flour
Large handful of fresh parsley, chopped
25g butter
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
25g grated parmesan or gruyère
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


To poach the fish:
1. Place all the poaching ingredients for poaching the fish in a medium sized saucepan and bring up to simmering point over a moderate heat. Allow to simmer for about 5-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
2. Remove the fish from the poaching liquid and gently flake into generous chunks. Strain the poaching liquid into a clean jug and discard, the onions, bay leaf and peppercorns.
Béchamel sauce:
3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a moderate heat and then add in the flour, stirring continuously with a small whisk. Allow to cook for one minute to get rid of the raw flour taste. Gradually whisk in the reserved poaching milk and continue to cook for 4-5 minutes over a gentle heat to create a smooth, slightly thick sauce. Remove from the heat and fold in the flaked fish and chopped parsley. Set aside while you make the omelette.
4. Heat the butter in an omelette or small frying pan (about 20cms in diameter) over a gentle heat. Once the butter has melted, add the eggs and season lightly. Once the eggs have almost set but still have a slight wobble in the centre, add the smoked haddock béchamel sauce, spreading it out with a spatula. Sprinkle over the grated cheese.
5. Place under a hot grill for 4-5 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the eggs have puffed up slightly. Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving, cut into wedges.

Serves 2-3.

It is easier to go down a hill than up, but the view is from the top.

Arnold Bennett.