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Luxury Fish Pie with Rosti Topping inspired by Delia with White Wine Pairing.
Ever wondered how to pair white wine with fish? I’m busy experimenting to see if I can do better than just reaching for a bottle of Chardonnay. And, as it’s National Seafood Week, I’ve indulged myself by making a luxury fish pie with a rosti topping and opening not one, but two bottles of white wine to see what works best. What of the rosti topping? Well, I am not the tidiest cook in the world and I’ve never managed to perfect piping potatoes to make those pretty scallop effects. I was browsing through my recipe books looking for some inspiration when I discovered Delia’s fish pie with a rosti and caper topping.
It looked SO pretty – and even I can grate a lightly cooked potato. But, gentle reader, I wasn’t up for using large quantities of fresh halibut which is really expensive, for a supper with friends (though I might do so for a special dinner some time). If I’m honest I wasn’t sure about the addition of gherkins and capers in the original recipe either. Instead, I’ve based my recipe on Delia’s method – but used ingredients that work for me. A classic fish pie filling of salmon, smoked haddock, hake and (to make it luxury) prawns. Tarragon and parsley were my herbs of choice because that is what I have growing fresh in the garden right now and a rosti topping which looked every bit as perfect as I’d hoped.
If you happen to have a shellfish allergy, then do substitute the prawns for monkfish (and poach it lightly with the rest of the fish). Did you know that monkfish used to be one of the cheapest fish you could buy? So cheap in fact that your local chippie might have used it as a substitute for scampi by cutting it into ‘fish nuggets’ before the egg and breadcrumb dip. It works brilliantly in a fish pie because it’s remarkably firm and ‘meaty’ in texture.
On to the wines. I have a bottle of Chablis Cellier de la Sablière Louis Jadot 2018 which the notes tell me is ‘an elegant Chablis’. Louis Jadot is a well-known family winery that was founded by Louis Henry Denis Jadot in 1859.
My second bottle is a rather fine Sancerre. It’s the kind of thing I’d look for on a restaurant wine list if I was ordering a grilled Dover Sole. But, there again, I’d probably ask the Sommelier for advice. Joseph Mellot La Gravelière Sancerre is a Loire Valley wine and the notes tell me that it has a longer skin contact that is normal which should increase the depth of flavour and weight.
This is one of the simplest kinds of food and wine matching exercises – two white wines, one dish. Sancerre is based on a Sauvignon Blanc grape while the Chablis is a Chardonnay grape. But, Andrew Jefford writing in Decanter about the terroirs says that ‘The two regions are climate-and-soil twins which just happen to find themselves growing different grape varieties.” I did wonder if we’d be able to pick, but side by side, there’s a marked difference in this pair of wines which both of us end up agreeing on.
We opened both the wines to try with my fish pie – and I was keen to see which works best. So, in the interest of fairness, my friend starts with the Sancerre while I get the Chablis.
She’s very happy and loves the light grapefruit and floral notes and the green minerality of her wine. But, I’m raving at this point about the pairing of my Chablis, which is buttery and rounded, still with citrusy notes but with stone fruit and white flower aromas and somehow richer with a long finish. It pairs beautifully with the fish pie. I think I might just have put in a little too much of the smoked haddock into the mix because the pie is really quite robust.
When we swap, we both agree that the Chablis is the better match for the fish pie and balances out the richness of the cheese and smoked fish without being overwhelmed. By contrast, the Sancerre seems too delicate.
Both wines are delicious. We did taste them first, without the food, and I’d still choose the Sancerre for a delicate fish – a light turbot or halibut. But this particular Chablis is quite robust and definitely the winner for fish pie. The roundness apparently comes from a partial malolactic fermentation which helps to soften the wine.
The lesson for me is that it’s worth experimenting with different wines, even if you think you know what you prefer. On paper, I’d have picked the Sancerre – and indeed my tasting notes came recommending that it would pair well with a recipe for smoked haddock with macaroni and cauliflower cheese, which I would have guessed was a closer match to my luxury fish pie with rosti than the rather delicious sounding salmon baked in a salt crust that was the recommended pairing for the Chablis. In the end, it’s all about personal taste though – it’s absolutely fine to have your own opinion.
Here’s how to make the luxury fish pie with rosti topping.
Adaptation of Delia Smith's luxury fish pie with rosti using a traditional mix of fish, tarragon, parsley and prawns for a rich filling, topped with cheesy rosti potatoes
- 150 ml dry white wine
- 275 ml stock vegetable, fish or chicken stock - or use extra wine.
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 50 g butter
- 50 g plain flour
- 30 ml creme fraiche or double cream
- 1 handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped finely
- 3-4 sprigs tarragon leaves picked and chopped finely
- 250 g fresh uncooked shelled prawns
- 300 g salmon
- 300 g white fish (I used hake)
- 200 g smoked haddock
- salt and pepper to taste
- 900 g large potatoes I'd suggest using baking potatoes
- 50 g melted butter
- 75 g cheddar cheese, grated finely
- salt and pepper to taste
Clean the potatoes and cut in halves
Place in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and salt. Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes
Strain the water off and cover the pan with a clean tea-towel to absorb the steam.
Put the wine, stock and bay leaf into a medium-sized pan. Add the fish, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.
Remove the fish from the stock and set to one side to cool a little
Strain the liquid into a jug
Melt the butter into the same pan and stir through the flour. Cook over a gentle heat for 2-3 minutes, then gradually add in the stock, stirring continually to make a thickish smooth sauce. Cook over a very low heat for 5 more minutes stirring continually.
Remove from the heat and add the cream or creme fraiche and chopped herbs. Stir well and taste. Add salt and pepper as required.
Remove the skin from the fish and flake into largish chunks
Fold the fish into the sauce
Add the prawns and fold through
Grate the potatoes into a bowl and using a fork, stir through the melted butter
Put the fish mixture into a casserole dish and spread the grated potatoes on top
Finish by topping with finely grated cheddar (I used my parmesan grater)
Bake in a preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes at 200C till the topping is golden and the fish mixture is bubbling up
Serve with a green vegetable
If you’d like to try the wine pairings for yourself the Louis Jadot Chablis is available from Ocado or Amazon for around £22.75 a bottle while the Sancerre can be bought from Nisa or Hedonism Wines for around £25 a bottle.
Disclosure: I was given the wines used to pair with this recipe. All content is editorially given.
Looking for more seafood recipes? Do try my Asian Style Oven Steamed Sea Bass – super easy and the perfect no-hassle supper dish. Or how about a low-calorie prawn curry – perfect if you are on a diet.