A Blingin’ Fish Pie
A couple of weeks ago I decided to take a one day break from the rat race and have a grown-up meal with my partner at an actual restaurant.
Afterwards, buoyed by the experience of having delicious food that wasn’t cooked in stop and start mode while the 3 year-old threw Lego into the pot, we went to a lovely fishery and parted with the equivalent of a week’s foodshop.
It was Valentine’s Day, the sun was shining, spring was in the air, the kid was in nursery so in an unprecedented wave of everything actually going well for 5 minutes, I handed over my card like a Kardashian at a Chanel boutique and left with a bag full of sea treasures.
“This is lovely,” I said, feeling very grown up in my brushed hair, makeup and sunglasses, out on the street and not working in the middle of a weekday.
“I am thinking maybe I can cook two meals with it since it’s quite a lot of fish and, you know, really make sure we make the most of it?
No pressure, but PRESSURE. THAT SHIT WAS EXPENSIVE.
“Yes,” said my partner. “What are you going to cook with it?”
“I am thinking fish pie. But not just any fish pie. I will follow an actual recipe.”
All of a sudden there I was, heavy bag in hand, and the expectation of a heavenly meal resting solely on my shoulders. Ingredients, we need ingredients! I need to check for a proper recipe! More money to be spent and there goes my Sunday afternoon which I didn’t have anyway, so it will just mean I will have to do it while the kid throws bouncyballs at my head and demands chocolate milk and dried pasta which will no doubt find their way into the sodding fish pie.
Maybe I should have gone to work after all.
I really had no choice at this stage but to decide which recipe I was going to follow. I went with a Hairy Bikers one and of course they need no introduction. All their food tastes lovely because what doesn’t taste lovely doused in full fat dairy? I could give up my jeans and live in leggings and expanded waistbands if it means the bling, sorry fish, I was holding in that bag was going to be worthy of Beyonce on the one day a year she probably breaks her diet. Go big or go home, as they say. So I went home and went huge.
I’m not gonna kid you. It took two and a half hours to make and a lot of faffing around with aromatic broths, poaching, sauces, mashed potatoes and BLOODY WASHING UP to the ceiling. But by God it was one of the best things I have ever cooked and I wanted to share it with you in the off chance you’re also in for a proper winter warmer and parting with half your pay check.
Here is the recipe. I followed it pretty much to the letter but added and omitted a couple of ingredients (in bold and italic).
The Hairy Bikers’ Ultimate Fish Pie
For the potato topping
- 1.5kg / 3lb 5oz potatoes (such as King Edwards, Maris Piper or Estima)
- salt and white pepper
- butter, to taste
- 100g / 3.5oz grated gruyere cheese
For the poaching broth
- 1 litre / 1 pint 15fl oz fish stock
- 4 tbsp dry vermouth
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 small bulb of fennel, cored and chopped
- 1 small carrot, chopped
- 1 small stick of celery, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- pinch saffron
- a splash of white wine
For the fish
- 750g / 1lb 10oz white fish (such as haddock, hake, sea bass or halibut)
- 250g / 9oz smoked haddock
- 200g / 7oz salmon
- 120g / 4oz raw prawns
For the parsley sauce
- 75g / 2.5oz unsalted butter
- 75g / 2.5oz plain flour
- 150ml / 5fl oz full-fat milk
- large handful parsley, finely chopped
- 150ml / 5fl oz double cream
- salt and white pepper
- a pinch of nutmeg
- a couple of handfuls of chopped dill
To assemble the pie
- butter, to grease the dish
- 125g / 4.5oz leaf spinach
4 hard-boiled eggsI omitted the boiled eggs
- 25g / 1oz ciabatta crumbs I used Panko breadcrumbs
- 25g / 1oz grated parmesan cheese
For the potato topping, place the potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.
Drain the potatoes well and mash them with a potato masher or ricer along with salt, white pepper and butter, to taste.
Stir in the gruyère and set aside the potatoes, keeping them warm.
For the poaching broth, place the fish stock, vermouth, onion, fennel, carrot, celery, bay leaf and saffron in a large pan and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.
For the fish, place the white fish, smoked haddock, salmon and prawns into the broth and poach for three minutes. Using a slotted spoon, gently remove the fish from the pan and set aside.
Pour the broth through a sieve into a clean pan, discarding the vegetables and herbs. Bring the broth back to the boil and simmer until reduced by half.
For the parsley sauce, heat the butter and flour together in a pan over a low heat, stirring to make a paste.
Add the reduced broth a ladleful at a time and keep whisking until smooth. Add the milk and the parsley, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
To finish the sauce, add the double cream to the pan and season, to taste, with salt and white pepper.
To assemble the pie, butter a casserole dish generously and flake the set-aside fish, discarding any skin and bones. Lay the fish in the casserole dish and pour about half of the parsley sauce on top (reserve the remainder of the sauce to use as a pouring sauce on the finished pie).
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the spinach to the pan. Blanch for a minute until the spinach has wilted. Drain well.
Slice the hard-boiled eggs and lay on top of the fish, followed by the blanched spinach.
Cover with the mashed potatoes.
In a small bowl, mix together the ciabatta crumbs and the parmesan. Sprinkle the cheese breadcrumbs on top of the pie.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown. Reheat the parsley sauce and serve the pie hot with the remaining parsley sauce poured over.
And here is how it looked in my kitchen throughout the process. I omitted the bouncyballs.
Of course the kid didn’t touch it. It was *drumroll for the toddler classic* pasta with sweetcorn and tinned tuna for him. We, on the other hand felt like royalty, minus the royalties 🙂