How to make… the Perfect Fish Pie with Sue Ashworth

SERVES 4

Nothing beats a home-made fish pie for flavour and sheer yumminess, and Sue’s easy step-by-step guide guarantees great results.

Sue’s a great friend of Lakeland (she writes lots of our recipes) and has been writing about food and cookery for many years, supplying features and recipes to many popular women’s magazines, websites and food companies.  As a member of the Guild of Food Writers, she believes that great-tasting food shouldn’t be difficult, expensive or time-consuming to prepare, and that it’s important to have well-written recipes that are easy to follow and give great results. Just like this one!

Ingredients

  • 1kg potatoes
  • Pinch of salt
  • 250g skinless, boneless cod fillet (thawed if frozen)
  • 250g skinless, boneless smoked haddock fillet (thawed if frozen)
  • 150g skinless salmon fillet (thawed if frozen)
  • 450ml milk, plus a little extra
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Parsley sprigs
  • 100g frozen prawns, thawed
  • 60g butter
  • 40g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 80g frozen peas, thawed
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until tender. Choose a variety of potato that makes great mash, such as Desiree, Marfona or Vivaldi. To check out varieties, visit www.lovepotatoes.co.uk
  2. Put the fish fillets into a large frying pan and add the milk, bay leaves and parsley sprigs. Cover and cook over a low-medium heat to poach the fish gently for 5-6 minutes. Test with a fork to check that the fish is done – it should be opaque, and should flake easily. Cool, then drain and reserve the milk, discarding the bay leaves and parsley.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Break up the fish into large chunks and transfer them to a 1.5 litre (2½ pint) baking dish. Make sure that the different types of fish are evenly mixed. Add the prawns and stir them through gently, so that you don’t break up the chunks of fish too much.
  4. Measure the cooking liquid from the fish and make it up to 450ml with a little extra milk (some will have evaporated while cooking the fish). Pour into a non-stick saucepan and add 50g butter, cut into pieces, and the flour. Using a silicone-coated whisk (so that you don’t scratch the pan) bring the mixture to the boil, stirring constantly, to make a smooth sauce.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chopped parsley and peas. Season with a little salt if necessary – though do taste the sauce first, as it may not need any because the smoked haddock will have added its salty flavour to the milk.
  6. Add some freshly ground black pepper to the fish in the baking dish. Pour the sauce on top, then gently mix into the fish – though there’s no need to do this thoroughly, as the sauce will seep through the fish as it cooks. It’s more important that you keep the pieces of fish nice and chunky. Leave to stand for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Drain, mash and season the potatoes. Melt the remaining butter, beating half into the potatoes with a little milk. Spoon into a large piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe swirls onto the fish mixture. Dab with melted butter. If you prefer, just spoon the potato over the fish mixture, using a fork to rough up the surface. Stand the dish on a baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden.

 

Little extras

Steamed Greens with Lemon Dressing
All you need with fish pie are some delicious, lightly cooked green vegetables. Just steam 2 sliced medium courgettes with 200g long-stem broccoli and 2 sliced medium leeks. While they’re cooking, make a dressing with the zest and juice of 1 small lemon mixed with 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp Dijon mustard and a little salt and pepper. Drain the veg when tender, toss with the dressing, then serve.

Little Fish Pies with Rosti Topping
How about this for a nice little number – perfect for a buffet or starter-size portions! Just share the fish pie mixture between small heatproof mugs, cups or ramekins, then use a potato ricer to ‘rice’ the cooked potato on top. Dot with little knobs of butter or spray with a little cooking oil, then bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. No ricer? Grate the cooked potatoes instead.

 

Troubleshooting

Something fishy going on? Let Sue tackle the issue!

Q Fish pie can be quite expensive to make. Any tips?
A Look out for ‘fish pie mix’ on your fresh fish counter, which uses offcuts to reduce the price. Or ask your fishmonger for fish trimmings to bag a bargain.

Q I’m wary of fish bones. What can I do to avoid them?
A Buy fish that’s labelled as boneless, though check at home by running your finger over the fillets to feel for any bones, removing them with a pair of tweezers. Double check when the fish is cooked too.

Q Which other herbs complement fish?
A  Try dill, tarragon or chives instead of parsley. Lemon thyme is a winner too! Plant out a few different varieties in your garden or window box so that you have a choice – cheaper than buying them fresh each time.

Q  If I’m entertaining, can I prepare ahead?
A  Definitely! Make the fish pie up to the point where it would go in the oven. Just cover and chill, then bake for 30-35 minutes to make sure that it’s completely re-heated. You could freeze at this point too, though defrost before baking.

 

5 Golden Rules

Avoid overcooking the fish when first poaching it – remember that it will be baked too.

Always check the seasoning – it can make or break a good fish pie.

When you’ve added the sauce to the dish, let it settle for 5-10 minutes before adding the potato to avoid overflow.

Flake the fish, though don’t fragment it! You need to taste the different chunks.

Standing the dish on a baking sheet captures any spillages, keeping your oven clean.

 

Recipe and food styling:  Sue Ashworth

Photography: Jonathan Short