War of the Fish Pies

Where to start with this one….everyone seems to have their own way of making this dish and people are very precise about the particular way they like theirs to be. I am no master of the fish pie by any means but I did research into the best looking concoctions and have even divulged my mums recipe in order to compare the differences.

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I have also chosen a smoked fish and cider pie I found in Delicious magazine, by Angela Boggiano. The only things I have changed are the exclusion of peas as my partner has a severe aversion to them, I have used dill rather than parsley and added salmon – as I like these flavours.

I am not a mashed potato person, so actually preferred the smoked fish and cider pie for its saucy, creamy filling and pastry lid. If you are a mash person – go with mums and you will not be disappointed. I was lucky enough to try my friend Becky’s fish pie, which she is well known for and have included a few of her tips too (her surname is Fish, so I wouldn’t mess with these ideas) it’s in the family genes.

Here we go…..

I’ll start with my mums recipe, who swears by adding a glass of Noilly Prat to the roux. Feel free to adjust fish and prawn quantities to your tastes/budgets.

Mums Recipe – Ingredients – Serves 4-6

  • About 5 large floury potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ pint whole milk
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 10 peppercorns
  • Pinch of ground mace (preferable)
  • 200g smoked white fish, skinned and cut into chunks
  • 200g salmon fillet
  • 200g white fish skinned and cut into chunks
  • 200g large, raw peeled prawns
  • Knob of butter (about 50g)
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1 glass ( 200ml) Noilly Prat
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • Handful chopped parsley
  • Handful capers, rinsed (if you fancy incl)
  • 1 handful of breadcrumbs
  • 1 handful of grated parmesan

Make sure you have a pie dish with capacity of about 1.5 litres.

Preheat oven to 180°C and peel potatoes, cutting into equal sized pieces. Boil in a large pan of salted water for about 25-30 minutes, or until tender and very soft. Drain, reserving some of the boiling water to use for boiling the eggs and leave to one side in a colander.

Boil eggs for 5 minutes whilst you mash the potato roughly, so there are still chunks. Leave eggs and potato to one side for the moment.

Add the milk to a medium sized saucepan with the peppercorns and bay leaf. Add the white fish/smoked fish and poach for 5 minutes then add the salmon for a further minute or two.

Strain the milk, making sure to reserve it as you will need it later.

Peel off the salmon skin, when cool enough to handle and cut into chunks, leaving it to one side with the rest of the fish. Discard the bay leaf and peppercorns.

Now melt the butter in a saucepan (non-stick if you have one) and when melted, using a wooden spoon – add the flour and cook for a minute or two, stirring until you get a thick paste.

Gradually stir in the Noilly Prat and when the sauce is smooth, add the reserved poaching milk a little at a time until you have added it all and you have a lovely smooth sauce.

Remove from heat and add the chopped parsley and capers (if using). Stir to combine.

Now add the fish and prawns and mix together before pouring half into your dish.

Peel, quarter and distribute your eggs before pouring over the other half of the sauce.

Add the potato on top, using a fork to rough up the surface. Bake in oven for 20 minutes then scatter over crumbs and parmesan and bake for a further 20 minutes or until the top is nicely crisp and golden.


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Smoked Fish and Cider Pie – Ingredients – Serves 4-6 – Again you will need a 1.5 litre pie dish

  • 50g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 300ml double cream
  • 200ml dry cider
  • 250g large, raw, peeled prawns
  • 300g haddock fillets, skinned and cut into chunks
  • 130g smoked haddock fillets, skinned and cut into chunks
  • 200g salmon, skinned and cut into chunks
  • 1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 large handful of dill, roughly chopped
  • 400g ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 1 large free-range egg, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 200°C, melt the butter in a saucepan (non-stick if you have one) and stir in the flour, cooking over a medium heat for a few minutes – by which time you should have a thick paste.

Gradually add your cider, with each addition – ensuring all liquid is fully combined.

Gradually add the cream, using same technique.

Remove from heat.

Stir in the prawns, fish, salmon, spring onions and dill. Spoon mix into your pie dish and leave to cool.

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Wet the edges of the pie dish with water (this helps pastry to stick) and roll out pastry, placing a sheet over the pie and pressing around the edges, to help it stick. Discard excess pastry from around the edges.

Decorate the top with excess pastry/trimmings. Maybe make little fishes or as I did, scales – stick on with a little water.

You can either freeze pie until needed, just make sure you defrost it the day before you cook it and cut a few slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape…………or cut a few slits in the pastry and cook straight away for about 40 minutes until golden and piping hot. Enjoy!

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Yum! My preference would be for your mums fish pie! I’ve my own fish pie version on my blog too, and I like a mash topping (although mine is cauliflower and mash) so that’s why your mum’s is a winner with me! 🙂

  2. Yana says:

    Umm, I’m not a mashed potato person, so I also prefer your version and I love the smoked flavour in a pie, however I never tried it with the cider, which sounds great!! 🙂

  3. katiebonken says:

    One vote each! Neil, good little twist with the cauliflower, it’s such a versatile vegetable, there’s lots I have planned for this little beauty. Yana, give the cider pie a whirl and let me know how you go, it’s a very indulgent pie!

  4. Comfort food at its finest…delicious!

  5. platefodder says:

    hmm.. the crust conundrum. With meaty pies I do like me some potatoes, but fish pies seem to need that crusty bit on top (like a big old cracker). I regularly do a smoked salmon pot pie that I’ve used both toppings for – and while both are good… everyone always seems to scrape the dish for every crusty scrap more with a full on pastry topper.

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