Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Cornish Fish Pie

Cornish Fish Pie

All these pies, casseroles and stews and other specialities in this blog came about as they were made of what ever ingredients were most abundant and cheap in that particular place. And frequently they were nothing more than a way of using up left overs. This fish pie is based on a modern example of just such an inception. As a youngster, I went to stay with a friend who had a holiday job on a campsite in Cornwall. Turned out; he was not allowed to have guests in his caravan so I ended up sleeping in the back of his car. Woken by sun streaming in through the windows every morning. One day, at the end of his shift, the chef who worked in the fish and chip shop on site knocked up a fish pie from bits that needed using in the kitchen. It was better than anything on the menu, by miles. Here is how I recommend you recreate a proper one.

Preparation and cooking time: 

Feeds 4-5. Takes 30 minutes to prepare and 45 minutes to cook


One or two salmon fillets (approx 300g) - skin off
A whole smoked haddock fillet ( again about 300g) - skin off
100g - 125g of king prawns (shelled - heads and tails removed)
100g of small garden peas
Handful of finely chopped parsley
1/2 a garlic clove
1 chopped shallot
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
1 kg of potatoes (floury, mashable ones such as maris piper, desiree or rooster)
150g grated, full flavour, mature cheddar
50g unsalted butter (split into quarters)  )
Freshly ground sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper
Chopped chives
1/2 pint of milk for poaching
1/2 pint of milk for your sauce
1/4 pint of milk for your mash
1/4 pint of double cream
Corn flour or plain flour


Start by preheating your over to 190o C.
Get the ball rolling by peeling and cutting your potatoes into slices and boiling them in slightly salted water for 20 minutes, or until they are soft enough for you to easily penetrate with a fork. Once boiled, drain off the water and leave in the pan with the lid on. 

You also need to hard boil your 2 eggs. Get the water in your pan bubbling hot first, then lower the eggs in one at a time with a slotted spoon and boil for exactly 10 minutes. On the 10th minute, lift them out of the boiling water and place them in a bowl of iced water to cool them down.

To recreate that desired "left overs" taste (which I appreciate sounds weird), you need to cook your fish in different ways so they come together in the pie as blended, rather than merged flavours. So, make a parcel out of aluminium foil, pop your salmon fillets into it with half of one of your butter portions and a small sprinkling of chopped chives, Bake in your oven for 18 minutes. While it is baking, put your haddock fillet into a pan (cut it in half if you need to) pour in half a pint of milk, which should be enough milk to just cover it (if it isn't, just top it up). Add your chopped shallot and the other half of your first butter portion and heat gently for approximately 8 minutes. Do not allow to boil. When done, lift the poached haddock and put into an oven proof dish. Keep 1 table spoon of the liquor it has cooked in. Discard the rest.You should still have time to lightly fry the prawns in the chopped garlic clove, a small sprig of chopped parsley and the second butter portion, before the salmon is ready. They only need a minute or two on each side until they are properly pink.

Add the salmon to the dish with the haddock (scrape off any chives that have stuck to it), break the fish up into 2 inch chunks, add the cooked prawns and the peas (which can go in raw or still frozen if you like). Take your cooled, hard, boiled eggs, cut into slices and add to the dish, sprinkle over half a teaspoon of paprika and half a tea spoon of cayenne pepper, and cover with plenty of ground black pepper and ground sea salt and give it all a good mix.

Now in a pan (re-use the one you poached the haddock in) melt your penultimate butter portion, over a low heat and add a table spoon of corn flour and mix together quite vigorously with a wooden spoon to make a yellowy paste (a "roux" if you want to be technical about it). Now. put you wooden spoon down and pick up a whisk and start to add half a pint of milk, one splash at a time, whisking furiously as you do so. At first, you will get quite a thick paste, but the more you whisk and the more milk you add the more it should thin out. By the time you add the last drop of milk it should be fairly runny. Add the liquor recovered form the pan you poached the haddock in and then, right at the end, add your egg yolk and whisk smooth. This should thicken your sauce to a "custardy" consistency. If it's any thicker than that, add some more milk and whisk away until it is smooth enough to pour. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour your sauce over your fish and peas. You want enough so every surface of everything is covered with sauce. What you don't want, is a big pool of sauce with fish and peas floating in it. So hold back any surplus sauce. You don't have to use it all. Then sprinkle the whole pie filling with finely chopped parsley.

Mash up your potatoes until they are smooth and lump free add your last portion of butter, all of your cream and stir it together with a fork. Then slowly add your quarter pint of milk while whisking your mash so it's nice and smooth. You may not need to add all the milk as you want quite a thick mash rather than a puree. Then spoon the mash onto your pie filling and spread it across the top so you end up with the whole thing covered. Run a fork over the top to rough up the surface, and pierce a few time to let any steam that builds up while its cooking to escape.

Finally, take your grated cheddar and sprinkle it all over the top of the mash so it makes a beautiful crust once its been cooked. Now pop the whole pie into your pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes (or until the cheese is golden and crusty).

Serve up as it is or with fresh, sweet green veg. Spinach particularly good.
Great dish to plonk down in the middle of a table and let everyone help themselves.

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