The Ultimate Fish Pie
Updated: Jan 27
by Calum Franklin from The Pie Room (Bloomsbury)
Photography: John Carey
Tony Fleming, my old boss, once described the perfect fish pie to me: he said that if a fish pie is not bubbling down the sides of the dish and browned on the surface, it is not a good one. At the time, I was working for Tony in a fine-dining restaurant where the food presentation was all about accuracy, finesse and clean lines and so the look of the fish pie went against the grain of everything else we did there. But Tony was right. A fish pie should never be de-constructed. It should never be neat and tidy. It should always be homely, rustic and even messy – that is what makes it so appealing and gets the taste buds firing when it arrives on the dining table.
500ml whole milk
300ml double cream
300g skinless cod fillets, cut into 2.5cm dice
200g skinless salmon fillet, cut into 2.5cm dice
200g skinless smoked haddock fillet, cut into 2.5cm dice
150g peeled raw tiger prawns
60g plain flour
300g frozen peas, thawed
30g chives, finely chopped
30g flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¾ teaspoon table salt
For the potato topping
1.2kg King Edward potatoes, peeled and quartered
200ml whole milk
100ml double cream
2 egg yolks, beaten
¾ teaspoon table salt
50g Cheddar cheese, grated
ovenproof dish (approx. 25cm long and 3cm deep)
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/gas mark 6.
To make the potato topping, put the potatoes in a pan and add enough salted water just to cover them. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are very tender. Add the milk, double cream and butter to the pan and mash together with the potatoes until smooth. Add the egg yolks with the table salt and mix until well incorporated.
Pour the milk and cream into a medium pan and bring to a simmer. Drop the diced fish and peeled prawns into the simmering milk and cream and poach for 2 minutes. Drain the fish, reserving the poaching liquid in a bowl.
Wipe out the pan and add the butter, bring it to a bubble over a medium heat and then whisk in the flour. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 8 minutes, whisking continuously. Add half of the reserved poaching liquid and bring back up to a simmer, whisking continuously to prevent any lumps from forming. Add the remaining poaching liquid and cook until thick and smooth. Add the peas, capers, chives, parsley, mustard and table salt and mix well. Return the drained fish to the pan and lightly fold into the sauce, being careful not to break up the fish.
Spoon the pie mixture into a deep ovenproof dish and level the surface. Spread the mashed potato topping over the pie mixture, taking it right to the edges of the dish, and then ruffle the top with a fork to create texture. Scatter the grated cheese evenly over the surface of the pie.
Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake the pie for 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling up at the sides and the potato topping has a crispy, golden crust.