Fish Pie Pie

Pie invokes such cheerful thoughts. It is comfort food of the highest standard. Spirits are lifted at the mere mention of pie. Not only in the moment before consumption but even in recollection of past pies. Much like remembering old lovers we all have fond stories to tell, stories that fill us with a warm glow and contented smile. Unfortunately though much like past partners, we can be let down by pies more than any of us would care to remember. But we all have those stories too.

We suffer the most pain when we least expect it, when we are at our highest and happiest. We have all been there; a promise of imminent pie – perhaps spotting one on a pub menu – our heart begins to race, we feel giddy, we allow our mind to wander to the feelings of love and intimacy we long for. Yet we are let down. The pie is nothing more than a stew with a lid. It is a crushing blow, you try to remain strong, at no other times is the stiff upper lip of the British needed more. You eat the pie, but the love has gone. You wonder if you will ever love pie again. You will, do not worry, but it will take time and we must be more cautious in future. Let us not run into temptation so hastily, for we are wiser now, we must learn from our mistakes and spot the warning signs before it is too late. We should settle for nothing but the best and only a pie fully encased in pastry is the very best.

Never allow yourself to be convinced to compromise for inferior pies; this will only lead to trouble and heartbreak. Much like love the, the word pie is overused and attached to second rate dishes, such as cottage, shepherds and fish pies. These offer no substance, it is only lust, and soon you feel empty again. Such pies are the ones you would find on Tinder – they have a place, they fill a hole, but they’re quickly forgotten by morning.

So this brings me to fish pie pie. A pie that will invoke all the feelings of love real pie should and leave you satisfied and content. To those that believe it should contain eggs before it can be considered a proper fish pie, well I would suggest that is a little rich coming from those that believe dumping potato on top constitutes a proper pie in the first place. But do as you see fit, just make sure you cut no corners. Fish pie pie deserves your unequivocal love, so commit fully.

Also it is important, imperative in fact, that you source sustainable fish. If shopping at supermarkets, look for the blue MSC label – Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are the best supermarkets for this. If lucky enough to have access to a fishmonger then they should be able to point you in the right direction. You could make this pie weekly and use different fish each time not relying on the over used cod, haddock and salmon. Hake, coley, pollack, trout, mackerel, mussels and clams can all be substituted in and out as you see fit. Variety is key.

Serves: 4
Cooking Time: 2 hrs + 1hr to make and allow the pastry to rest
Equipment: 8inch round tart tin, cake tin or pie dish, preferably loose bottomed

2oog Plain flour
100g Unsalted butter
½ tsp Salt
50-75g Ice cold water

Optional – 200g mussels or clams,+75g water or white wine
25g unsalted butter
30g Flour
250g Vegetable or fish stock
Generous handful chopped herbs – parsley, chives, thyme
1 Lemon, zest of whole, juice of half
75g double cream
450-500g Fish – 1/3 smoked, the rest a mix of any of the following: cod, hake, coley, gurnard, prawns, salmon, trout, mussels, clams – whatever you can get just make sure it is sustainably sourced
1 egg
375g All-butter puff pastry

To make pastry I prefer to do so in a food processor as it keeps everything colder. Process the flour, butter and salt until you have coarse breadcrumbs (a few small lumps of butter is no concern, I would almost advise it) and then tip the mixture into a bowl, add the water – starting with 50g – and bring together with your hands, adding a little more water until it just comes together into a ball. The colder your flour/butter mix is the more water you will need – maybe as much as 100g, do not panic this is a good thing. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for one hour or until ready to use.

Take the pastry from the fridge, lightly flour your worktop and roll the pastry into a 10 -12 inch circle about 3mm thick – roughly the thickness of a pound coin. Grease your tart tin/pie dish with oil or melted butter, carefully lay the pastry over the top and ease the pastry down and into the corners pressing gently with your index finger. Leave any overhanging pastry and transfer to the fridge to chill for 30minutes.

Heat the oven to 160c fan/180c/gas 4. Line the pie base with baking paper – scrunching it into a ball beforehand makes it more pliable – and cover the base with baking beans or rice or dried beans. Place in the oven and cook for 25mins.

If you manage to get some mussels or clams then cook them before you begin to make the white sauce for the filling as the cooking liquid can be used in place of the stock. Place the shellfish, about 200g, in a hot pan, add 75g of water, or white wine if you’re fancy – and cook covered for 2-3 minutes until the shells open. Drain, reserve the liquid, and once cool, remove the mussels or clams from their shells and keep aside. Measure the reserved liquid and top up with stock if necessary.

Next begin to make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, once melted add the flour and whisk to form a paste. Add the stock, or reserved mussel liquor, a little at a time, whisking after each addition to create a smooth sauce. Once all the stock has been added and the sauce is smooth turn the heat to low and pour in the cream. Zest the lemon and add this along with the chopped herbs and squeeze in the juice of ½ the lemon. Add a few generous twists of black pepper and check the seasoning adding more salt if you think it needs it. Turn off the heat and leave to one side.

Remove any skin from the fish and chop into large, 1-2 inch, chunks. If using prawns keep these whole, but obviously remove the shell. Add the fish and mussels to the sauce and stir.

After 25 minutes the pastry should be a light golden colour. Remove from the oven. Take out the paper and baking beans. Whisk an egg with a splash of milk and brush the base all over. Return to the oven and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the pastry is golden.

Remove from the oven, carefully trim the overhanging pastry with a serrated knife and add the filling. Increase the heat to 180c fan/200c/gas 6.

Lightly flour the work surface and roll the puff pastry into a 12 inch square and using a 10” cake tin cut out a circle to form the lid. Brush the edges of the pie with egg wash and then lay the puff pastry on top making sure it is sealed all the way around. Brush all over with egg wash and then make a hole in the centre. Place in the oven for 25-35 minutes until, the pastry is golden and the pie is cooked through. The best way to test is to insert a knife into the centre then place it on your bottom lip –if it is hot then the pie is cooked.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving with anything you like.

Printable version: Fish Pie Pie

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