Everyone loves a pie. I personally favour the potato-topped ones over pastry, especially those con-artists that feature just the pastry lid. Cottage pie, shepherd’s pie (I know, one is beef and the other lamb but damn if I know which is which), Lancashire hotpot is a dream, and of course a fish pie.
Yes indeed, it should be with a mash topping, but I had to find a compromise for a mash objector. Some people, eh? But the sliced potatoes work rather well, baking to a crispy golden layer and you can justify putting more cheese on top than you would over mash. Not sure why, but it does work like that.
Use the best fish you can, not just sad offcuts from the bottom of the freezer. The combination of ingredients is anyone’s flight of fancy and I have stuck to the classic selection: haddock fresh, haddock smoked, salmon and prawns. I imagine a super-decadent version might involve turbot or even Dover sole but it seems rather extravagant to bury prime cuts in sauce under a mound of spuds.
There’s absolutely no need to precook the fish and I can’t quite understand why recipes advise that. The smoked haddock might be a bit on the firm side but better that than stringy mush.
- Use as much fish as you like, here roughly 400-500g in total for two people:
- 1 salmon fillet
- 1 small smoked haddock fillet
- ½ fresh haddock or cod fillet
- a dozen raw prawns, thawed if using frozen
- 4-5 medium waxy potatoes
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 2 heaped tsp of flour
- 500ml milk
- 500ml fish stock
- 1 tbsp. double cream
- ground white pepper
- a grating of nutmeg
- 100g grated Gruyère cheese
- 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan
- 2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
- a handful of frozen peas, thawed
- salt and pepper
Soak the smoked haddock in the milk for at least half an hour. Rinse and pat dry, reserve the milk for the sauce. Skin all the fish and cut into 2.5cm cubes.
Boil the potatoes until tender, drain, cool and slice quite thinly.
Melt the butter in a skillet, add the flour and stir energetically to make the roux. Cook it, stirring, for a few seconds, then start adding milk and stock, stirring continuously. Season with white pepper and the nutmeg. You might not use all the milk or the stock – check if it’s too your taste, not too milky or too fishy. Let it bubble and cook down for a few minutes, stirring every now and again. Add the cream, mix in most of the Gruyere and half the parmesan. Stir it vigorously and cook a bit longer until perfectly smooth and thickened. Leave to cool slightly, then stir in the parsley.
Layer the fish chunks and the prawns in a gratin or pie dish, scatter the peas among the fish. Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper. Spread the sauce all over the fish, reserving a couple of spoonfuls.
Layer the potato slices on top of the sauce, season with salt and pepper and dab the rest of the sauce over the potatoes. Sprinkle over the remaining Gruyere cheese and most of the parmesan.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Bake the pie for 30-35 minutes until bubbling and golden, scatter the rest of the parmesan over the top just before the end of the cooking time. Serve with green salad.