Recipes | Risotto of smoked haddock, leeks and cauliflower with a vadouvan dressing


Risotto of smoked haddock, leeks and cauliflower with a vadouvan dressing

An unusually complicated recipe for this site but one which should be absolutely worth the effort. It comes from Phil Howard's fantastic The Square: The Cookbook volume 1 which I suspect is already well-thumbed in many restaurant kitchens.

When you look at it in detail, it's not that daunting either. Howard, a natural teacher, patiently talks you through the recipes, explaining the thinking behind each dish and what to focus on to make sure it's successful including - critically - the timing of the various components.

If you cooked one a month you'd have an impressive repertoire.

Serves 8

Smoked haddock is the primary ingredient of many great dishes and they all possess a similar comforting nature. It has a wonderful strong flavour, rounded, smoky and somehow very homely. Not only is it delicious in itself but it also imparts its flavour effortlessly to its surroundings. It is this quality that makes it so well suited to a leading role in a risotto, and on a cold winter’s day this mellow risotto, lifted with the curry-like flavour of the vadouvan dressing, is a perfect starter.


The smoked haddock is skinned and trimmed and the skin off-cuts are used, along with onion, leek, celery and cauliflower, to make the risotto’s base stock. The haddock is poached in milk, flaked and folded through the rice towards the end.

The risotto is finished with softened leeks, cauliflower, grated hard-boiled egg and butter and is drizzled with a vadouvan dressing – a curry-like emulsion of onions, vadouvan, vegetable stock and butter.

Focus on

-- Source large fillets of undyed smoked haddock, not the bright-yellow variety so often seen.

-- The quality of the finished risotto is reliant on the flavour of the base stock. Do not compromise on the quantity and quality of its ingredients and ensure you season it fully once made.

-- Vadouvan is a French take on curry and has a phenomenal flavour. It should be available through specialist shops but if all else fails, use a top-quality mild curry powder.

Key components

Smoked haddock

Smoked haddock stock

Vadouvan dressing


-- This is a simple dish but all its preparation needs to happen on the day. The stock can be made up to 4 hours in advance. The vadouvan dressing can be made then too. The leeks and cauliflower can be blanched 2 hours or so before the risotto is cooked and the vadouvan dressing should be made an hour before.

-- The smoked haddock should be poached 30 minutes before the risotto is finished. The risotto can be part cooked an hour before serving, thereby requiring only 5 minutes’ completion. It can of course be cooked in one continuous process, in which case simply omit the ‘break’ outlined in the method below.


Smoked haddock

2 x 250g fillets of undyed smoked haddock, skin on

Smoked haddock stock

50g unsalted butter

2 white onions, sliced

2 leeks, sliced

50g cauliflower, sliced

2 celery sticks, sliced

the skin and off-cuts from the smoked haddock, above

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon peppercorns

Vadouvan dressing

1 white onion

50g unsalted butter

½ teaspoon celery salt

15g vadouvan powder

Other ingredients

4 large eggs

1 long, slim leek

4 cauliflower florets

2 celery sticks

90g unsalted butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

300g Carnaroli rice

500ml milk

50g Parmesan cheese, grated



Smoked haddock

Skin the smoked haddock fillets. Run your fingers along the front end of each fillet to check for residual bones and remove any that you find. Trim away 1cm of the thinnest part on either side of the fillets and remove 3cm from the tail end. Reserve the skin and trimmings. Cut the haddock fillets in half and set aside, covered, in the fridge.

Smoked haddock stock

Place a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat and leave for 1 minute. Add the butter, swirl the pan to melt it and then stir in the onions, leeks, cauliflower and celery. Add a pinch of salt and sweat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened. Add the smoked haddock skin and trimmings, the bay leaf and peppercorns and cover with 1.4 litres of water. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cook at a bare simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to rest for 15 minutes. Pass the stock through a colander into a bowl, discarding the solids, and then through a fine conical sieve. Taste the stock and season if necessary. Set aside to cool, then cover and chill.

Vadouvan dressing

Cut the onion in half through the root and cut each half in half again. Break the resulting quarters down into individual layers, methodically cut each layer into 3mm wide batons and then cut across into 3mm dice. Place a heavy-based pan over a medium heat and leave for 1 minute. Add 20g of the butter, swirl the pan to melt it, then add the onion and celery salt. Cook for 2–3 minutes, until tender. Add the vadouvan powder and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add 100ml of the smoked haddock stock, bring to the boil and cook at a bare simmer for 5 minutes. Add the remaining butter and turn off the heat. Briefly whisk to incorporate the butter and set aside.

Other ingredients

Bring one small and one medium pan of water to the boil and generously salt the small pan. Boil the eggs in the medium pan for 8 minutes, then lift them out, refresh under cold running water for 2 minutes and peel. Set aside, covered, in the fridge. Once they are cold, grate them on a coarse grater.

Remove the outside layer from the leek and cut the leek on the diagonal into 5mm-thick slices. Plunge into the pan of boiling salted water for 30 seconds, lift out and place on a tray lined with a kitchen cloth. Transfer immediately to the fridge. Do not refresh.

Break the cauliflower down into tiny florets and blanch them in the salted water for 1–2 minutes, until tender. Lift them out and set aside with the leeks.

Peel the celery sticks, cut across into slices 2mm thick, blanch in the salted water for 30 seconds, then refresh briefly in iced water and set aside with the other vegetables.

To part-cook the risotto

Place 700ml of the smoked haddock stock in a pan and bring to near boiling point. Place a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat and leave for 1 minute. Add 50g of the butter, swirl the pan to melt it, then add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook for 2–3 minutes, until softened. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes longer, stirring frequently. Add a ladleful of stock, turn the heat down and cook, stirring frequently, until the stock has been absorbed. Add a little more and continue this process until you have no stock left. This should take about 12 minutes and the rice should be very much al dente. Tip the rice out on to a tray, leave to cool for 5 minutes and then cover with baking parchment.

Half an hour before finishing the risotto, pour the milk into a pan, place it over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, add the smoked haddock and leave it to poach for 2 minutes, then turn it over in the milk. When it is cool enough to handle, lift out the smoked haddock, gently break it into succulent flakes and set it and the poaching milk aside.

To serve

Pour 600ml of the stock into a pan and bring it to near boiling point. Put the rice into a large pan and place it over a medium heat. Add 100ml of the haddock poaching milk and stir continuously while it heats up. Continue to stir until the rice has absorbed the stock, then add a bit more and continue this process, tasting the rice as you go, until all but a small amount of stock has been added and/or the rice is nearly cooked – it should still be just al dente. Stir in the smoked haddock, leek, celery, cauliflower and egg. Add the remaining 40g butter and the Parmesan, remove from the heat and stir gently until the butter has melted and mixed in.

Place the vadouvan dressing over the heat until just warm. Lay out 8 preheated shallow bowls and divide the risotto between them. Drizzle a spoonful or two of vadouvan dressing over the top.

This recipe comes from The Square, The Cookbook Volume One: Savoury' by Philip Howard with photographs by Jean Cazals (Absolute Press £40) And online roughly what you'd pay for a main course at the Square or any other top London restaurant which makes it an absolute bargain in my book.

What to drink: The smoked haddock and vadouvan dressing are the key to the wine match here. I'd suggest a Pinot Gris or a Viognier or maybe an old-style white rioja like Muga's.


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