A classic fish pie with welcome bite
I always like to have a smoked fish in my fish pie. My oldest daughter will always vote for “the pink fish”—also known as salmon. I like to add a green vegetable too, and I always grate some parmesan into my white sauce to give it a bit of bite. When it comes to the topping, slice your potatoes rather than mashing them, then brush with melted butter. It won’t take longer to do, but it will give your pie a cleaner finish, with more variation in texture than the usual mash. I can guarantee empty plates, full bellies and a warm fuzzy feeling.
1kg large potatoes
A large handful of spinach
1 small leek
200g unsalted butter
1.15 litres whole milk
3-4 bay leaves
1 tsp whole peppercorns
150g smoked haddock
150g raw prawns
60g plain flour
150g parmesan, grated
Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters, place into a saucepan of cold water with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5-7 mins until the potatoes are just cooked. Drain and leave to cool a little before slicing thinly. Keep to one side until assembly.
While the potatoes are cooking, place a colander on top of the saucepan and pop in the spinach. Let the leaves wilt, then remove from the heat. This should take no longer than 1-2 mins.
Wash and thinly slice the leek, then sauté until soft in a little of the butter.
Place the milk, bay leaves and a teaspoon of whole peppercorns in a medium saucepan. Over a medium to low heat, bring to a temperature just below boiling then gently add in the fish—but not the prawns. Put the saucepan back on the heat for 2-3 mins then remove from the heat and leave to rest for a further 2-3 mins.
After the fish has rested, gently remove it from the milk and flake into quite large chunks, straight into your pie dish—don’t worry if the fish is still not quite cooked. Strain the milk and reserve it for your white sauce. Add the prawns and the sautéed leeks to the dish, scattering everything equally over the fish. Squeeze the spinach to get rid of any water, then add it to the pie.
To make the white sauce, gently melt around 50-60g of the butter, add in the plain flour and whisk to form a paste. Gradually add the reserved milk, whisking after every addition. You’re looking for the consistency of thick double cream, so continue to add the milk until you’ve reached the right consistency. Add around 100g of the grated parmesan. Taste to check the seasoning and add some salt and extra parmesan if needed.
Pour the sauce over the fish and vegetables then gently turn it all in the sauce so that everything is coated—don’t stir too vigorously or you’ll break up the fish. Layer the potatoes on top, working your way into the middle in circles. Make sure that the potatoes overlap and hide the filling beneath. Melt the remaining butter and then liberally brush the potatoes.
Bake in a preheated oven set to 200C for 35-45 mins, or until the potatoes are golden and crunchy. Serve immediately as it is, or with some additional vegetables.
ALTERNATIVE: Create a rosti to top your fish pie by adding a variety of different grated winter root vegetables—parsnips, celeriac, carrots—to shredded potato.
Recipe: Beca Lyne-Pirkis