Fish Pie – Facing your Fears
As you may have already seen I have a fabulous hamper of fish from Delish Fish. I used to DREAD fish pie when I was a kid. My mum’s recipe was adapted from the New World Radiation Cookbook and was VERY simple:
1lb of cooked fish, ½ pint white sauce, 1lb mashed potato, 5 eggs, salt and pepper, a little butter
Butter a pyrex baking dish
Flake the fish into the dish and mix in the white sauce.
Make little wells in the fish mixture and break an egg into each well.
Season with salt and pepper.
Top with mashed potato, make waves using a fork to torture your children so they KNOW it is fish pie.
Bake in an oven at about 180c for 20 minutes.
Now, I have to admit, most of my problem was NOT the fish. It was those little wells of egg. For the most part I liked everything I was given to eat, but the one exception was egg. And, covered up with mash, it was impossible to make sure that I didn’t get an egg or a part of an egg. Once on my plate, my father would insist it was eaten. It wasn’t until I started to visit Cornwall regularly to sing at the music festival at St Endellion that I discovered fish pie WITHOUT EGG. I’ve been playing around a bit with my basic fish pie recipe today and I do think it’s something you should adapt to your personal taste.
Here’s the basic fish pie recipe I use . I’ve tried a few recipes over the years, some with no bechamel but with cream and white wine sauce, some using fish stock, some where you don’t cook the fish at all. A fish pie recipe can be incredibly fiddly to make if you follow some of the cheffier ideas around. I don’t think it should be! This version uses a simple bechamel but adds in a couple of spoonfuls of double cream at the end and, I pre cook the fish for a few minutes in the milk for the bechamel, so there’s no need for fish stock. My mum would NEVER have used salmon in a fish pie, it was way too expensive and saved for special occasions. But, it has a different texture to white fish and has become much more widely available so I usually do put it in. However, I don’t like using shellfish or prawns because I think they always end up chewy and overcooked. And, I am firmly of the opinion that you should have a ratio of smoked to normal fish of about 1:2 – so there’s a subtle smokey flavour.
Variations that I personally like include using a reduction of fresh tomatoes and shallots, or fresh uncooked spinach under the fish mixture. I sometimes top the potato mixture with a sharp cheddar too. If you really can’t get hold of a good smoked haddock, then making a cheesy mash works quite well. If you like eggs, well, a hardboiled egg halved is a worthy addition. A bit like my last fish dish, this is something you can vary according to your own taste and to what is available and in season.
This fish pie freezes well and is great comfort food for a chilly day. So I make up batches of individual pies that I can just re-heat when the weather is chilly and I want a taste of the sea.