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Hugh’s mum’s fish pie

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher from The River Cottage Fish Book (Bloomsbury)

Photography by Simon Wheeler

This is a classic, creamy, comforting pie, which should delight fish eaters of all ages. The basic principle is to have some smoked fish, some white fish, some oily fish and some prawns. But, of course, you can vary the species according to what’s available – and good value – on the day.

Serves 6



400G cooked, shell-on Atlantic prawns

500g smoked white fish fillets, such as pollack or haddock

300-400g fresh white fish fillets

300-400g organic salmon fillets

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 large carrot, roughly chopped

1 celery stick, chopped

1 bay leaf

A few peppercorns

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped and stalks reserved

About 750ml whole milk

3 large eggs, at room temperature

50g butter

75g plain flour

2 tbsp chopped chives

Salt and ground black pepper


1kg floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper or Désirée, peeled and cut up

50g butter, plus extra to dot on top of the pie

100ml whole milk, warmed


Shell the prawns and put the shells and heads in a saucepan: they will help to flavour the sauce for the pie. With a sharp filleting knife, skin the fish (or get the fishmonger to do this, and ask to keep the skin). Add the skins to the saucepan, plus the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, peppercorns and parsley stalks. Pour enough milk just to cover, bring to a simmer, then take off the heat and set aside to infuse for at least half an hour. Remove any pin bones from the fish with tweezers and cut up all the fish into roughly 2cm cubes. Combine with the shelled prawns, and set aside.

While the milk for the sauce is infusing, make the mashed potato. Boil the spuds in salted water until tender. Drain and leave them in a colander to steam for a minute or two, then return to the pan and mash with the butter and milk. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the eggs and boil for 7 minutes. Take off the heat, and put the pan under cold running water to stop the cooking. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel them.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.

To make the béchamel sauce, strain the infused milk into a jug and place by the hob. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, add the flour and stir well to make a smooth roux. Cook this gently for a couple of minutes, stirring, then gradually add the infused milk, beating well after each addition so you don't get any lumps. Allow the sauce to cook gently for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick. Remove from the heat, season to taste and add the parsley and chives. Stir in the fish and the prawns.

Cut the eggs into quarters and arrange them in a pie dish (about 30 x 20cm). Spoon over the fish mixture, then top with spoonfuls of mashed potato, spreading it evenly over the fish and the top into wavy lines with a fork to maximise crispness. Dot with a little butter and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the top is starting to brown and the sauce bubbling up the sides of the mash. Serve with buttered peas.

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