After spending four hours on a rain sodden M25 yesterday, with traffic at a standstill for much of the time, to pick up my mother in Kent and bring her to my home for a couple of days – a journey that would normally take only two hours – a bit of warm, comforting food was needed at suppertime. And there are few things more comforting than a good fish pie, full of flavour and goodness and easy to eat. I nearly always serve fish pie and shepherd’s pie with peas, which I suppose brings a ‘nursery’ aspect to the easy comfort of the eating. But I happen to love peas – as a side veg, in risottos (and so do the Italians!), in pasta (see my Tagliatelle with Prosciutto and Peas), or added to a soup.
Fortunately I’d bought the fish in the morning before I set off on the trek to the UK’s ‘garden of England’ – Kent. I’d been waiting for the heavy rain to clear, having driven through a flooded bit of the M25 when heading there on Christmas Day, and not wanting to repeat the experience, but even in the afternoon drizzle and winter grey, Kent is such a pretty county.
When evening came, putting the pie together was an easy job. First of all, I got the potatoes going. I cut up a couple of large baking potatoes and boiled them in salted water, then mashed them till smooth and creamy with some butter and a little milk. While the potatoes were cooking, I got on with making the sauce.
I melted 50g butter in a saucepan and added a finely sliced onion and cooked till the onion was starting to soften. I then added 2 tablespoons flour and mixed all into a roux and let it cook for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time. Then I added a good glug of dry vermouth (or white wine if you have it to hand) and mixed in. Next I started slowly added some hot stock (I used a light chicken stock but fish stock would be good if you have some) to make a thick sauce. You could use milk but my mother can’t eat very milky-creamy dishes so that’s partly why I used all stock here, but I also think the wine and stock take the dish out of the nursery and into something more special. And I did add a nice drizzle of cream at the end.
Then I added a good handful of roughly chopped fresh parsley and finally salt and pepper and checked the seasoning was right. You want a fairly thick sauce or it will all turn out too runny once the fish is cooked in it.
You can use pretty much any fish you fancy but this mix here – of salmon, haddock and prawns – is one of my favourites. You need a fish that holds its shape when cooked so you get nice chunks in the pie. I cut the salmon and haddock into bite-sized pieces and scattered over raw prawns. Then pour over the sauce and finally top with the creamed potato. Put in a 200C/180Fan oven for about 30 minutes, till nicely browned. About halfway through I scattered over some Dukkah, a seasoning of hazelnuts, fennel seeds and lots of other nice flavourings, that I bought from Ottolenghi’s online store. Sometimes I grate some Parmesan cheese on top. But really, it’s a very nice pie without any additions to the topping.
Mmm. Doesn’t it look good? And definitely good enough to eat!!
Fish pie is one of my favourite winter dishes, so warm and comforting on a dreary day. And sometimes I make it just for myself, but put it together in smaller, single-portion dishes and then freeze the extra pie for another day (you need to thoroughly defrost before you bake it).