All too often these days, recipes appear, usually from TV chefs that take a classic simple dish and turn it into something so complex and with so many ingredients that it can be quite off putting to give it a go making it at home. The easy option of finding it in the freezer isle of the local supermarket seems to be the sensible choice but have you tasted one recently? There is no resemblance between the frozen version and the wholesome homemade delicious version!
Fish pie has in my opinion fallen foul of the fancy recipe writers. At its best a good fish pie is a delicious mix of creamy sauce, smoky fish and crispy crunchy potato topping – what could be simpler?
I tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 lb (450g) fish, smoked haddock is good but use any fish you prefer, a mix of fresh cod and smoked haddock works well.
10 fl oz (300 ml) milk
1½ oz (40g) butter
1 oz (28g) plain flour
7 fl oz (200ml) vegetable stock
4 black peppercorns
2 oz (50g) each of frozen peas and sweetcorn (or more if you prefer!), defrosted
About 1½ lb (750g) potatoes, boiled and mashed
3oz (85g) strong cheddar cheese.
Making the Fish Pie
Start by boiling and mashing the potatoes. No need to add any butter or milk, you want the potatoes to be fairly dry so they hold their shape once cooked. Stir in the cheese and set aside. This amount of cheese gives a fairly strong flavour. You can alter the amount of cheese you use to suit your taste and the strength of cheese you are using. If you would rather not use cheese at all then add a little butter to the potato for flavour.
Heat the oven to gas 6 and lightly grease a 3 pint (1 ¾ ltr) ovenproof dish.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion without colouring until soft.
Place the fish in another large frying pan with the milk and peppercorns. Bring to the boil then turn out the heat, cover the pan and leave to stand for 5 minutes. This will be long enough to cook the fish and it should just start to flake.
Transfer the fish to a plate and strain the milk through a sieve into a jug, this will be used to make the sauce.
Flake the fish into large chunks and place them into the buttered ovenproof dish, discarding any skin and check carefully for bones, which should also be discarded.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Mix together then very gradually add the milk saved from cooking the fish. Keep stirring until all of the milk is added then add in the vegetable stock. Continue to cook the sauce until it thickens and is smooth then stir in the peas and sweetcorn.
Pour the sauce over the fish then top with the cheesy mashed potatoes.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until the potato topping is nicely crisp and golden brown.
This is a very simple fish pie for 4 and is lovely served with a green vegetable such as broccoli or green beans. You can play with the ingredients by substituting different fish, flaked tinned salmon works very well, leeks add a nice sweet flavour or you can add a couple of quartered hard boiled eggs too.
If you would like to freeze the pie to eat later, wrap it well and pop it in the freezer before baking for up to 1 month. Defrost before baking as above.