Making this pie didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped. In fact, I’d go further than that. Making this pie was an unmitigated disaster. The sauce was lumpy, I had to skin the fish myself and got covered in scales, the potatoes boiled over, I tried to sort out the sauce with a hand-blender and it splattered all over the counter (and me), the dish I used turned out not to be big enough and the sauce spilled over the rim … I could go on.
So it’s fair to say I didn’t have massively high hopes for the final product.
Apparently, I should have been more optimistic, because once baked to golden loveliness in the oven, it didn’t look as bad as I’d feared. More importantly, it actually tasted pretty good.
This was yet another in the ongoing series of ‘dishes that can be made in advance and left to cook themselves in a pre-set oven’. I’m a bit disappointed in myself that it hadn’t occurred to me to do a fish pie before. I really love fish pie – it’s warm and comforting, smothered in a blanket of creamy mash and gooey with sauce. I like to include some smoked fish in the mix, which makes everything extra delicious. This time I went for dill in the sauce and mustard in the mash, thinking it would add a Scandi flavour. Not sure it did, but it was pretty tasty nonetheless.
My top tips for fish pie making are as follows:
- Always use more fish than you think you’ll need – I used to put in one portion of fish per person, but this was never enough. Add extra. It’s not like leftovers are likely to be a major problem anyway.
- Likewise with mash – more is better.
- Don’t make the sauce too thick. The contrast of runny sauce and thick, creamy mash is delicious.
- Make sure the mash gets crispy on the top. It’s sometimes necessary to give the fish pie a quick go under a hot grill to achieve this, but it’s worth it. Otherwise it’s soft, soft, soft, all the way through.
Armed with this knowledge, and the recipe below, hopefully you’ll have a better fish pie making experience than I did. With a similarly delicious end result. At least this shows that nothing in the kitchen is totally irredeemable 🙂
- 850g potatoes
- 150g haddock fillet (or other white fish)
- 150g smoked haddock fillet
- 250g salmon or trout fillet
- 25g butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 500ml milk
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
- 50ml milk
- 1-2 tsp wholegrain mustard
- First, cook the potatoes. Peel them, then cut into 1-2cm dice. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until very soft.
- Meanwhile, prepare the fish. Skin the fillets if necessary and remove any remaining bones. Cut the fish into chunks and set aside.
- Make the sauce - melt the butter in a large heavy based pan, then stir in the flour and cook for a minute, stirring all the time. Gradually add the milk, stirring well to ensure a smooth sauce. Once all the milk is added, continue to cook, stirring continuously, until the sauce come up to the boil and thickens slightly. Remove from the heat.
- Gently stir the chopped dill and prepared fish pieces into the sauce. Cover with a lid and set aside.
- Make the mash. Drain the cooked potatoes and mash well with the milk and mustard to give a creamy consistency. If necessary, add a drop more milk.
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Assemble the pie. Use a slotted spoon to gently transfer the fish from the sauce into a pie dish. Spread the fish in an even layer, trying to mix up the different sorts of fish. Very carefully, pour the sauce over, trying to avoid disturbing the fish pieces.
- Arrange the mashed potato on top of the fish and sauce, and use a fork to rough up the surface. Place the pie dish on a baking tray and transfer to the oven.
- Cook at 180C for 30-45 minutes, until hot throughout and browning on top.