The week commencing 1st March - this week in fact - is British Pie Week. I hold pies very close to my heart: I think they are comforting, nurturing and very delicious whether sweet or savoury. But I was a bit put off by the fact that Pie Week is pretty much an advertising gimmick for a large pastry manufacturer. So how to celebrate the wonder of traditional British pies whilst sticking it to the man? A pastry-free pie.
In Britain, you see a lot of dishes with a mashed potato topping (shepherd's pie, cottage pie) called a pie. And although I love cottage pie, I absolutely adore fish pie.
There's a lot of flexibility around a fish pie. It's generally a white sauce base, but I have made very good pies on a veloute sauce. Some people like hard boiled eggs in the filling and cheese in the mashed potato - I don't. But I do like a variety of fish and something vegetable-y in mine. But not peas. Please.
This is my recipe for this particular small fish pie. It served the two of us, with enough leftovers for a lunch the next day. If you do a thicker layer of potato, it'll go further.
2tbs plain flour
1 leek, washed and finely sliced
Milk (about 1 cup - I used semi skimmed)
A big handful of chopped parsley
300g cod fillet, skinned and cut into chunks (I used an MSC certified one, but if you can't find that, any sustainable white flaky fish)
200g undyed smoked haddock fillet, skinned and cut into chunks (you can use the lurid yellow dyed one, of course. Or a drained can of smoked mussels)
150g raw peeled prawns
freshly ground white pepper
400g frozen mashed potato, thawed (or, you know, a spud and a bit of butter)
Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan. When it foams, add the shredded leeks and saute until well-wilted. Sprinkle on the flour and stir well until the flour is thoroughly absorbed into the butter and leeks.
Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, until you have a thick sauce. I make this a lot thicker and stodgier than my normal bechamel, because I don't pre-cook my seafood, so it'll throw off a lot of moisture and I don't want a runny pie filling.
Add the parsley. Season the sauce well with nutmeg and white pepper. The smoked haddock is very salty, so I don't add extra salt. Simmer for a couple of minutes.
Stir in the seafood, and allow the sauce to come back up to the simmer. Remove from the heat when the prawns are beginning to turn pink.
Pour into a pyrex baking dish, I use an 8" square one. Top with the mashed potato and rough it up with a fork.
Put into a 180C oven for about 35-45 minutes or until the filling is bubbling up around the sides of the dish and the peaks of the potato are an appetising brown. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. I served it with steamed purple sprouting broccoli, dressed in a shallot and caper vinaigrette. The rich, creamy fish pie likes something a bit tangy on the side.