You know when you’ve bought all the ingredients that you think you need, mentally prepared to take some time to cook a dish, got everything ready and out and prepared and then…..you realise you’ve forgotten potatoes? Yup that was how I ended up making this deliciously satisfying pasta bake when I was planning on making a fish pie! Happy accidents are the best though aren’t they? The three little bears christened it ‘Fish Pie Pasta’ and I thought I’d share it with you on this cold and frosty winter morning.
There’s nothing nicer than a huge dish of comfort food is there! How good does this look?!
The other amazing thing about this is that it’s made with a beautifully creamy, unctuous sauce that you would swear was made with cream and cheese but it is, of course, totally dairy free. The one thing I missed the absolute most when I was eating 100% dairy free was this kind of dish with this kind of sauce, there’s nothing nicer than a thick creamy sauce coating your pasta and dripping off your fork….takes me back to my childhood when my favourite dish to ask mum to cook was always macaroni cheese. But I can assure you that you don’t miss the cheese in this dish, in the slightest, honestly. If you don’t believe me you’ll just have to have a go at making it won’t you!
So, what did I use to make this sauce so creamy and delicious in the absence of some good old full fat cream and a large handful of salty cheddar cheese?
I start the base of the sauce as you would making a normal roux but using vegetable butter and gluten free flour to make the paste. The only struggle with using this combination is the consistency as it’s hard to achieve a smooth sauce using a whisk alone. As you add the almond milk you may find it goes through a scrambled-egg-looking stage but with lots of elbow grease and slow incorporation you can eventually get to a decently smooth looking white sauce. My secret to total smoothness is to whizz it up in my vitamix at the end so get rid of any lumps and bumps and you then end up with a lovely smooth and runny sauce.
To emulate the cheese flavour I add various things including lots of salt and pepper, lemon juice, wholegrain mustard and some nutritional yeast flakes. Now I appreciate not everyone has this strange ingredient in their cupboards but it’s worth getting hold of some if you’re taking dairy free cooking seriously. It adds that distinctive nutty saltiness that you miss without cheese and a little goes a long way.
Lastly, the absolute key to the unctuous-ness of this sauce is my secret ingredient – Oat cream. Run out and get yourself half a dozen of these little cartons of deliciousness, you’ll never use high fat dairy cream again I swear. You can get oat milk alongside the usual dairy free suspects such as almond milk, cashew milk, hazelnut milk and soya milk but the only ones that come in a cream form are soya and oat. I don’t like to use too much soya because of my thyroid condition so now I have discovered this amazing oat alternative is stocked in my local Tesco, I am an oaty-convert. Sometimes you find it in the free-from fridge section or you can get it in the long-life section instead. Either way it’s great to have some at the back of your fridge or in the cupboard. I use it in desserts, to make creamy chicken dishes, I add a splash into any pasta sauce to take the edge off raw tomatoes, and you can even use it as a coffee creamer. It’s very light and pourable and it doesn’t have a strange taste like soya sometimes does.
You will need this:
- 100g vegetable butter
- 2tbsp gluten free plain flour
- 250-500ml almond milk
- 250ml oat cream
- 1tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1tsp lemon juice
- 1tsp wholegrain mustard
- 1/2tsp seasalt and 1/2tsp black pepper
- 1 white onion
- vegetable/olive oil
- 150g prawns (cooked or uncooked it doesn’t matter)
- 280g cod or any other white fish
- 280g salmon fillets
- 1cup of frozen peas
- 1cup of frozen sweetcorn (or tinned is fine)
- 450-500g dried gluten free pasta
- 3-4 slices of gluten free bread
- 1tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp seasalt and 1/2tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
You make it like this:
- melt the butter and the stir in the flour to make a roux
- slowly incorporate the almond milk, whisking furiously to make the sauce as smooth as possible (add as much milk as you need to make the sauce a good runny consistency)
- add the carton of oat cream and stir gently for a few minutes as the sauce thickens
- add all the seasonings
- once it’s a lovely pourable consistency then blitz it in your vitamix or blender to get it totally and utterly smooth, put to one side
- cook your pasta
- chop up the onion nice and small and start sautéing gently until it’s gone translucent
- cut the fish into inch sized chunks and add to the onion with the prawns and gently sauté until the fish has started to firm up and cook through (about 5 mins)
- add the peas and sweetcorn before pouring over the creamy sauce
- mix thoroughly and then combine with the pasta before pouring it all into your serving dish
- make the breadcrumb topping by whizzing up the bread with the seasonings and then sprinkle generously on top
- bake in the oven at 180c for 20mins until golden brown and bubbling
Succulent fish, sweet prawns, fresh peas and sweetcorn, all wrapped up in an oozy gooey creamy sauce and covered in a crispy salty crumbly topping….. if that doesn’t keep your family well fed and happy on these cold winter evenings I don’t know what will!