May 4, 2024


In France there is a chain of frozen food shops called Picard.  Their range of foods goes from basic stuff, like peas and green beans, through to luxury items.  Our favourite purchases include their croissants, which cook from frozen in eighteen minutes, their salmon fillets, which are not cheap but occasionally on special offer, and twin packs of scallops in chardonnay sauce which are a bit pricey but utterly divine as a starter.  These little gratins also come in reusable ceramic dishes, always a bonus in my book.  We have frequently seen little piles of them for sale at village brocantes - the French rarely throw anything away that they might get a few euros for! I have hung on to mine and by now have collected enough of the little blue dishes to feed quite a crowd!

After treating ourselves to another scallop gratin starter I thought I really ought to look for a recipe for something similar that would make a tasty starter without the hefty price tag.

I spotted a recipe for a smoked haddock gratin on a lovely blog which you can see here and which gave me the idea for my starter.  I used frozen spinach which comes chopped and mixed with a little crème fraîche - a combination that I’m not sure if it’s available in the UK but any fresh or frozen spinach would do the job.  I left the quantity I wanted in the fridge to thaw overnight which made it easy to drain off excess liquid.  

The rest of the recipe is really just an assembly job.

They were perfect little starters, quite rich with all the cream and cheese but very tasty and not too filling! Definitely good for a dinner party.  Next time, instead of smoked haddock, I might try a mixture of prawns and smoked salmon - the little packs of diced smoked salmon or trimmings that you can buy would be ideal.

You can find more recipes for the smoked haddock that I used, and other smoked fish, on the manufacturer’s website here. There are English and French versions.  

UPDATE: I made the gratins using smoked salmon trimmings and prawns, which were delicious.  I also made a couple using chicken and chorizo for someone who was allergic to most fish and they were pronounced delicious too.


5 blocks of frozen spinach in crème fraîche, thawed, or equivalent, or a 200g bag of fresh spinach

1 x 140g smoked haddock fillet, skin removed

6 small knobs of butter

6 dessert spoons half fat crème fraîche

3-4 tblsp grated gruyère cheese

3-4 tblsp grated parmesan

6 slices of a large tomato

2 tblsp fresh breadcrumbs made from 1 slice of white bread


Preheat the oven to 220°C / 200° fan / gas mk 7.  Put six small gratin dishes or ramekins on a baking sheet.

First make the breadcrumbs.  Tear a slice of white bread into pieces and drop into a food processor.  Process until you have fine crumbs.

If using fresh spinach wash and cook it for a few minutes until just cooked then chop it.  If using frozen spinach make sure it's completely thawed.  Press out any excess liquid and share between the gratin dishes or ramekins.

Cut the fish into small pieces and sit them on top of the spinach.

Dot the fish with a small knob of butter and spoon some crème fraîche on top.  Sprinkle with the two grated cheeses and place a slice of tomato on top.

Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and bubbling.  Serve immediately.

(As the dishes are straight from the oven you may want to serve them sitting on a heatproof plate or dish so as not to damage your table, placemats or tablecloth.  I served mine on a small glass plate protected from the heat by a pad of folded paper serviette.)

Serves 6.


  1. Oohh that does look lovely! I've just gotten back from a week in Corsica and am bursting to start cooking again so I will definitely try that. And I love Picard too - the best of the frozen food shops, in my opinion!

    1. Just wanted to let you know I made this yesterday, using salmon not haddock. I made it in one dish as there's just me. It was very rich so I agree it would make a nice starter in smaller portions - but it was also delicious so thank you!

    2. The original recipe that I adapted is for just one dish but I have to say they looked really pretty in individual dishes as a starter. As you say, it is very rich.
      I'm so glad you enjoyed it and Picard is one of our favourite shops!
      I'm currently toying with an idea for using smoked sausage instead of the haddock. Some of the smoked sausages you get in France are very tasty!

  2. They look delicious. I need to know though … where did you get the smoked haddock?? I can get it in Grand Frais sometimes, but it’s dyed.

    1. This smoked haddock was also dyed. We got it in SuperU and the pack size was just right. I have often seen smoked haddock on supermarket fish counters and market fish stalls but never undyed.

  3. Lovely dish and just a bit retro in a very good way. I really should use smoked haddock more often, I've got out of the habit. Yes, you can get frozen spinach in crème fraîche in the UK; a nice man (or sometimes, woman) in an Ocado van brings it to my door together with a decent choice of other Picard frozen foods.

    1. Ah yes, we have been known to enjoy Picard goods in the UK via Ocado.

    2. AnonymousMay 18, 2024

      Thanks, I did once find some genuine undyed smoked haddock in Grand Frais, but that was pre Brexit. To be fair their dyed haddock is not bad at all, it doesn’t stain everything bright yellow.

    3. It's only in recent years that I realised that undyed smoked haddock was available. The yellow stuff is what we had when I was a child and what I bought ever since. I always thought the yellow colour was the result of the smoking process.