At weekends we are lucky enough to be able to get away as a family to the Northumberland coast. Without doubt, one of my favourite places in the World.
Once you get North of Newcastle upon Tyne, following the long and winding coast road, you will start to see the stunning, often deserted beaches that line the North Sea coast. They are straddled by imposing sand dunes, that have been a fond memory I’m sure for many of the 35+ year old’s who have grown up in the area. I remember balmy Summers days during the school holidays spent careering up and down the dunes and running between the long reeds and grasses that grow amongst them.
This weekend was the first opportunity to get away for a while, once all the Christmas celebrating and hosting was finished. After a few busy weeks, and lots of eating and drinking, this was a great chance to get down onto the beach, blow away a few cobwebs.
The dinner of choice tonight was fish pie. A simple dish that is perfect for cooking when you are away from the usual comforts of your home kitchen.
This is yet another of my dishes where there really is a lot of opportunity to mix and match ingredients, there really is no right or wrong. I would always recommend adding some type of smoked fish, I normally use Smoked Haddock (i prefer non-dyed but was unable to get this for tadays pie).
The biggest argument I hear from people about fish pie is whether or not it should contain boiled egg! This is a no-brainer for me…a resounding YES! However, feel free to omit if it is your preference.
- 250 grams Smoked Haddock Ideally un-dyed
- 250 grams White Fish Haddock, Cod, Pollock, Hake
- 300 grams Salmon
- 200 grams King Prawns
- 1 single Leek very fine dice
- 2 single Banana Shallots very fine dice
- 100 ml White Wine
- 200 grams Butter
- 50 grams Plain Flour
- 500 ml Milk
- 1 Chives or Parsley
- 750 grams Potatoes
- 1 glug Olive Oil
- 1 pinch Cayenne Pepper
- 4 single Eggs Boiled
- Start off by getting your finely diced leek and shallots into a deep saute pan with a lid, get them frying gently in a good glug of olive oil (with the lid on). You need to be careful here because if the temperature is too high the vegetable will start to burn due to the fine dice. You don’t want any colour on these, so keep the temperature low, lid on and stir occasionally. Should be done after about five minutes.
- Turn the heat up a little, add the white wine and then place the fillets of fish into the pan. Top with the lid and continue to cook gently for around 8 minutes. This should give the fish enough time to poach gently in the wine and create a really fantastic base for the white sauce later.
- Once the fish is cooked, remove from the sauce and place to one side to cool.
- Make a a roux by melting 50g butter in a sauce pan, once melted add 50g of flour and mix until it forms a ball in the pan, cook this for about 4-5 minutes on a low heat until it is a golden colour and all the flour has been incorporated into the butter.
- Start adding the milk (cold) a little at a time to the roux and whisk in, looking to get rid of all the lumps as quickly as possible. Bring to a boil which will then thicken the sauce, you want it to be quite thick to ensure the finished pie doesn’t run all over the plate. However, feel free to loosen a little with extra milk.
- Add the leeks, shallots and sauce from the other pan and stir in, check for seasoning and add salt & pepper to taste. I also like to add some dijon or wholegrain mustard, and then the chives or chopped parsley.
- break the cooked fish up into large chunks and scatter around a large pie dish. Also add the king prawns and slice up the 4 boiled eggs and arrange on the top of the fish. Pour over the sauce and shake the pie dish a little to ensure it is evenly distributed. Allow this mixture to cool which will make it much easier to spread the mashed potato.
- Add a pinch of cayenne pepper over the fish mixture
- Get your spuds into a large pan of salted water and boil for about 20 mins, slightly over cooked is better for mash than under cooked. Once cooked drain well and get back into a pan on the hob. I like to dry out for a minute or so before adding the butter. For a fish pie you want quite a dry mash so, only add butter….and lots of it. for 750g of spuds I will add around 170g of butter – a lot I know, but this is stick to your ribs, Winter food and for me, it is worth it. Mash the spuds in the butter until all the lumps are gone and when stirred the mash automatically lifts from the base of the pan. Check for seasoning and ensure that salt is added if necessary to give that fantastic flavour.
- Place the mash on top of the fish and spread as evenly as possible, add a pattern to the top if you so wish. Then get into the oven at 180C for about 25-30 minutes. The mashed potato should turn golden and crisp on the top which means it is ready. Serve whilst piping hot! Enjoy!