15 mins (plus resting)
1 hour 15 mins
- 1kg fish fillets and shellfish (a mix of smoked haddock, salmon, hake, prawns etc – whatever you prefer)
- 500ml fish stock
- 100ml dry vermouth or white wine
- A handful of flat-leaf parsley and tarragon
- 100ml whole milk
- 1-1.5kg floury potatoes, depending on the surface area of your baking dish
- 130g butter
- 30g plain flour
- A large pinch of saffron threads
- Nutmeg, for grating
- ½ tsp English mustard
- 200ml double cream
You will need a baking dish of approx 1.8-litre capacity
Skin the fish fillets if necessary and be sure to keep the skin for crisping.
Pour the stock and vermouth or wine into a large saucepan. Bring to a vigorous simmer over a medium heat and slide in half of the fish fillets. Poach for 3 mins, then lift the barely cooked fillets out with a slotted spoon and transfer to the baking dish. Repeat with the rest of the fish. Gently mix the fish together, breaking it up into chunks and watching for bones. Chop the herbs, scatter over, and season with pepper. Set aside while you make the rest of the pie.
Add the milk to the poaching liquor and set aside.
Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks, and simmer in a large saucepan of salted water for 15-20 mins until tender. You can make the sauce while the potatoes cook, but keep an eye on them.
For the sauce, melt 30g of the butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until it turns light brown, but take care it doesn’t burn. Gradually pour in the reserved poaching liquid and keep on stirring to get it all worked into the flour. Add the saffron, a few good gratings of nutmeg and the mustard. Stir over a low heat for about 10 mins until the sauce thickens, then add 150ml of the cream and stir again for a further 5 mins or so until the mixture has a good sauce consistency. Remove from the heat and check the seasoning.
By now the potatoes should be nearly cooked. Once they are, drain them and mash well with the remaining 100g butter and 50ml cream. Salt generously.
Leave the fish, sauce and mash separate for at least 30 mins and up to 2 hours until you are ready to get the pie in the oven.
When you’re ready to cook the pie, preheat the oven to 210C. Spread the sauce over the fish and then top with the mash, making sure the potato is tight at the dish sides to help stop the sauce bubbling over. Fork the mash into little peaks. Sit the pie on a large baking tray that can catch any bubbling sauce and bake for about 30 mins (40-50 mins if the fish and sauce are being baked from cold). Your pie is ready when the potato is crisp and browned. If it is being slow to crisp, put under the grill for a minute or two, but keep close watch to make sure it doesn’t scorch.
To make the crisped fish crackling
Simmer the skins in boiling water for 3 minutes, then lift out and leave to thoroughly dry on kitchen paper or a clean tea towel. Use a spoon to gently remove any small bits of fish flesh on the skin. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat, lay the skins in the pan and let them bubble up and crisp. Turn them over and, when fully crisped, lift out and scatter over lots of salt.
Image: Kim Lightbody
Recipe from Borough Market: The Knowledge with Angela Clutton (Hodder & Stoughton 2022)