Felicity Cloake in the Guardian online’s Word of Mouth cookery blog has been looking at the elements that make up the perfect fish pie.
Felicity rates Nigel Slater’s recipe as “one of the simplest I can find, and when it comes to comfort food, the man can do no wrong.” Being a big Slater fan myself, I would have to agree with her statement. But after finding his pie, “comfortingly thick, but undeniably, and perhaps deliberately bland”, Felicity checks out some other celebrity versions.
Tom Aikens produces a recipe which is “deliciously rich” but “disappointingly refined”; Marco Pierre White uses stock in his, and abandons the traditional white sauce; Nigella uses cheese and Angela Boggiano prefers a pastry topping, which for traditionalists cannot compete with mounds of fluffy mashed potato.
Felicity took the best of the versions above and came up with the recipe below. What do you think makes the perfect fish pie?
Felicity’s Fish Pie
1kg floury potatoes, eg Maris Piper or King Edwards
Splash of milk
500ml fish stock
100ml white wine
Small bunch of parsley, separated into leaves and stalks
350g white fish fillets and / or salmon
350g smoked white fish
200g small peeled prawns
50g plain flour
200ml double cream
2 anchovies, finely chopped
Handful of white breadcrumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Peel the potatoes and cut into evenly sized chunks. Put in a large pan, cover with cold water, add a generous pinch of salt, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain, and allow to sit in the colander for a few minutes, then mash until smooth, and beat in the butter and a splash of milk. Season well and set aside.
2. Put the fish stock, wine and parsley stalks into a large pan, and bring to a simmer. Add the fish, and simmer for five of minutes, then lift out with a slotted spoon, remove the skins if any, and cut into large chunks. Discard the parsley stalks.
3. Melt the butter in a medium pan over a lowish heat, and then stir in the flour. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, being careful not to let it brown. Gradually stir in the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes.
4. Take the sauce off the heat, stir in the double cream, parsley leaves and anchovies and season. Add the fish and prawns and toss to coat.
5. Put the seafood and sauce into a baking dish and top with the mashed potato. Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and bake for a further 15, until the top is golden.