We don’t get many visitors who stay overnight largely because we work from home. My brother-in-law and his wife recently spent a long week-end with us and I much enjoyed catering for them. My sister-in-law is a very skilled practionner of arts & crafts but not a particularly keen cook. I’m the opposite, barely capable of sewing a button back on but right at home in the kitchen. So it was a real treat to cook for them for a few days.
The fish pie is a British classic but all too often the fish ends up completely over cooked, lacking its identity, texture and flavour. In this recipe, I cool the sauce and then add the fish to the cold sauce before baking in a hot oven. This ensures that the fish is not over-cooked. This versatile recipe can be made with whatever fish you prefer. You can be creative with flavouring it, adding your favourite herbs and even some vegetables. You can make and chill the sauce ahead of time, or assemble the pie, minus the topping, and freeze.
Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)
- 2 large shallots or 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 40g (3 tbs) butter
- 1 large thyme sprig, leaves only
- 4 tbsp Noilly Prat, dry vermouth or dry sherry
- 2 tsp Pernod (optional)
- 4 tbsp plain flour
- 250ml (1 cup) fish, chicken or vegetable stock (a stock cube is fine)
- 200ml (3/4 cup) milk
- 4 tbsp double (heavy) cream
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 250g (1/2 lb) skinless salmon or cod fillets
- 180g (6 oz) smoked haddock fillets
- 200g (7 oz) scallops
- 150g (5 oz) large prawns, peeled and deveined
- 1 tbsp fresh organic lemon juice
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Creamed Potato Topping
- 750g (1 1/2lbs) potatoes, peeled
- 75g (5 tbsp) butter, cubed
- 50ml (1/4 cup) hot milk or single cream
- 2 large egg yolks
- 75g (2/3 cup) medium Emmental (or similar) cheese, finely grated
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6 (400°F). Grease a shallow (about 2 litre /8 cups capacity) pie dish.
2. Start by making the mashed potato for the topping. Chop the potatoes into chunks and cook in boiling salted water until tender. Drain well and push through a potato ricer, or mash until smooth. Add the butter and hot milk or cream and mix until well incorporated. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in the egg yolks. Season well and put to one side.
3. Sauté the shallots or onion and celery in the oil and butter with the thyme leaves for about 10 minutes until softened. Add the Noilly Prat and Pernod (if using), then cook for 4–5 minutes until reduced right down.
4. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or so. Heat the stock in a small pan or a jug in the microwave. Gradually stir it into the vegetable mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth, and boil for about 5 minutes until reduced by a third. Mix in the milk, lower the heat and simmer for a few minutes. Season well, then add the cream and parsley and leave to cool.
5. Meanwhile, cut the fish into bite-sized chunks and scatter in the pie dish with the scallops and prawns. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and seasoning. Put the dish on a baking sheet.
6. Pour over the cool sauce and mix well but gently with a fork. Pipe the mashed potato on top or spread and fluff it up with a fork. Scatter with the grated cheese and put the pie immediately in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 (350°F), and bake for another 20 minutes, turning the dish if it starts to brown unevenly. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving and receiving plaudits!
7. Serve the fish pie with fresh steamed greens (peas, asparagus, spinach or broccoli are perfect) and a nice glass or two of your favourite white wine.