Angelfish Pie with Asparagus

Life is a sum of all your choices

                                          Albert Camus

On the face of it, that makes sense. You mess up, life isn’t always rosy. You do the right thing, it can be all that and a gardenful of roses.

Except, in the living of life there often isn’t a moment spared for analysis of action. We’re whisking the pot, ladling the contents, feeding, eating, washing, cleaning and going in for leftovers when the rest of the house has retired and there is that singular moment of calm hanging like a laden olive branch, at the very end of the day. Perhaps the only moment in your activity filled day, to reflect and collect your thoughts.

Depending on where you live, where you went to school, what your parents, teachers, instructors, friends, political and religious leaders told you, there is an underlying thought process that will guide your decision making, without you even lifting your head from the pot.

Perhaps you’ve made the conscious decision to move away from the thoughts and beliefs of your childhood or surrounds. Many things influence who we are today – love, money, desire,  the quest for the meaning of life, the search for better opportunity, fate, our state of health, emergency, determination.

If this were a just world, and the playing field completely even, would you feel encouraged or disheartened by the fact that every decision you make, will contribute to the life you live?

In other words, you are the steward and can steer that ship as and how you see fit. A great big Titanic ending to a helter-skelter robust life or a slow and steady journey, sipping and savouring – the choice be yours.

There is incredible responsibility leveled by Camus’ words, but in it there is peace too.

If not today, then tomorrow, if not the road travelled by your friends, then your unique path. The caveat though is that life does not dish out an endless supply of days, the number of which each of us is certain of from birth. This is the gamble then.

Perhaps some of us will never get to say no, finish that degree or application or book, dine with him alone and just for the pure, unadulterated pleasure of his company, ask for forgiveness or grant it or achieve the things most important to us.

I ask myself the question, if it had to be over tonight (preferably after my midnight snack when the house is quiet and I’m given the opportunity to file away my thoughts for the day; my mother always said dress the part should you die in your sleep/an accident etc), how would I look at the choices I’ve made so far?

I can tell you this much, some of my life’s decisions have been pretty bizarre. Some, I know I don’t bother to understand any longer for they have found their rightful places in the puzzle of my life, albeit agonizingly slowly. Some decisions, I still regret. Some I don’t think I’m close to ever understanding. There are those decisions that have come to me as naturally as breathing. And there are those that sit in a black box, sealed tightly from even my grasp.

Often I wish that life and my version of happiness came as easily for me, as it does for my husband and some of my friends. I feel a sense of urgency, a feeling that there is really so much to be done, and yet I lack my father’s sense of motivation and crack-of-the-whip-at-the-break-of-dawn efficiency. I fear it is a shortcoming that in the sum of my life, will get me only so far. That, possibly is for me, the greatest personal tragedy that could befall my life, save for the onset of senility or a dreaded disease.

individual angelfish pie with asparagus

Today, the Christmas decorations at the shops really did make me gasp out loud (though truth be told, it happens every year and you’d think a girl would learn to cope). So here it is, the very last sprint to the end of the year. Downhill. Slipping and sliding, ready or not.

What will happen in the next two months, Mr Camus, I do not know for sure. But, I’m hopeful, quietly, peacefully hopeful. Also, I’m ready for many more a midnight snack/thought analysis session in the quiet of our house, with nothing but the sound of my breath and the slow whirr-whirr of my mind to accompany me.

While you are thinking about the decisions you’ve made for your life (please do share- the happy, sad, reckless, vengeful, thoughtful etc), perhaps you’d like a piece of pie as your ‘midnight snack’.

I thought the angelfish topped with a double mash of potatoes and sweet potatoes formed a lovely base to showcase the season’s (spring, in our case) loveliest cast member: asparagus.

As for a mash potato topping, in my books it defies all seasons. A piece of the life puzzle I’ve happily figured out already.


asparagus in season, perfect on a delicate fish pie


Serves 4-6

1 kg potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed

500 g sweet potato, peeled, boiled and mashed

1/2 small onion, finely diced

1 T butter

1 T olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 small bay leaves

30 ml flour

30 ml butter

750 ml milk (or half milk, half fresh cream)

400 g uncooked angelfish, remove bones and flake fish

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 t freshly ground mace or nutmeg

200 g young asparagus, steamed for 1 and a half minutes and refreshed under iced water


Grease a deep baking dish for the pie or four smaller ones for individual servings and pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.

Heat the stove on medium and in a medium-sized saucepan, melt the 1 tablespoon of butter and olive oil together.

Fry the onions till translucent.

Add the garlic and bay leaves and fry for a few seconds. Don’t brown the garlic.

Remove onion/garlic mixture and set aside.

Add the 30 ml of flour to the pan and cook for 10 seconds, stirring.

Add the butter. Stir. Cook the flour and butter for a few minutes, turning the heat down.

Add the milk, gradually, stirring with a wooden spoon so that lumps do not form.

Use a whisk if necessary.

Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Add the angel fish and cook for 3 – 4 minutes until the fish is done, but not dry.

Add the onion/garlic mixture and mix through. Remove the bay leaves if you wish.

Mix the mashed potato and sweet potato together, adjusting seasoning and adding a bit of butter if desired.

Arrange the asparagus on top.

Bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm.







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