Friday, 8 April 2011

Easy Fish Pie

It's Friday! It's the weekend! Well, a few people may not escape from work for a pesky few hours yet, but let's not dwell on unsavoury matters like that. Instead, let's turn our attention to the deeply savoury, the delicious, the decadent - fish pie.

Now, I know that fish pie might not seem all that decadent, nor all that suitable for a Friday evening when you're looking for minimum faff, maximum treat, but honestly and truly, this deserves a chance. For one thing, it really is incredibly easy - no pre-poaching! no white sauce! And with a celeriac topping and some luxurious additions, this is a creamy and indulgent version of fish for Friday that is actually (whisper it) relatively healthy and very quick.


Incidentally, is the fish-on-Fridays phenomenon universal, or just me? Our work canteen offers fish and chips every Friday lunchtime and I find it very hard to resist. I think I'm conditioned by the fact that in my junior school we had fish fingers every single Friday, without exception, for five years. Actually, I tell a lie - one week we had cod bites with potato smiley faces (this was back in the 90s, way before Jamie Oliver got anywhere near school dinners). The shock was so overwhelming that I don't think the experiment was ever repeated again. 

But nevertheless, eating fish on Fridays still seems right and this is a great way to do it. We've done this pie with all types of fish and shellfish and it adapts really well to whatever you've got. The Marks & Spencer mix of scallops, prawns and cod was ludicrously luxurious but delicious (bought when reduced price, obv), the picture below was with a mix of cod, pollock and smoked haddock.


In a fit of carb-dodging and fridge-emptying a while ago we tried topping the pie with mashed celeriac rather than potato and let me tell you, this is the way of the future. Nutty, sweet, cheesy, the celeriac was so much better than potato and avoided the troubling slop factor of normal mash. A word of warning though - the celeriac is extremely wet, so be prepared to drain it really well and steam the mash over the heat for a few minutes, or use a ricer to squeeze out the water before mashing.



You can be guided by whim in choosing the flavourings, but I like lemon, mustard, parsley, dill, capers and anchovies. You could leave any of them out, try different herbs, change the cheese, add a splash of white wine, some garlic, sliced up cornichons, a bit of chilli - whatever floats your boat (ahem). Also, the first time we did this we poached the fish in milk first but I actually prefer it with raw fish. By the time the fish has baked in the oven for twenty minutes it will be perfectly cooked, and this way you don't risk the slight cotton-wooliness of overcooked fish. It also holds its shape better, plus it's easier and quicker. Win-win-win-win! 

Yet for all that it's so easy, this still looks and tastes like a real treat, a special occasion dinner. And Friday is a special occasion! Weekend, here we come - let's celebrate with a cheesy, creamy, herby, lemony, tangy fish pie. So much better than fish fingers. 


Quick Fish Pie
Adapted from family recipe
Serves 2, easily scaleable.

- 300g mix of fish - I think the Platonic Ideal would be something white (perhaps pollock as we're all too scared of non-sustainable cod), something smoked (we used haddock) and something indulgent (like prawns) but go with what looks best or what you can get.
- 150ml creme fraiche or fromage frais (half fat or full fat, either is fine)
- splash of milk
- flavourings, which can be adapted as above. I went for a splash of Noilly Prat, some salt and pepper, a teaspoon of mustard, a handful of fresh, chopped herbs, the juice of half a lemon, a tablespoonful of drained capers and a couple of chopped anchovies to ramp up the fishy flavour
- a handful of spinach - fresh can be put in raw, frozen should be cooked and squeezed out before adding
- half a big celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks
- a big handful of grated cheddar
- knob of butter

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and boil your celeriac for 15-20 minutes or until tender and mashable. While it's cooking, mix together the creme fraiche and flavourings, adding milk if it looks a bit thick or you think you need more of the creamy sauce. Stir in the spinach and then add your fish. Mix carefully to avoid breaking up the fish and transfer to an ovenproof dish.

When the celeriac is cooked through, drain it very thoroughly and return it to the pan. Gently steam the celeriac over the heat to try to remove some of the wetness, then mash it. Season and add most of your grated cheese, plus a wee bit of butter, then arrange it over your creamy fish mixture, trying to cover all the gaps. Scatter the remaining cheese over the top and place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the top is crusty and golden.

Serve with a chilly white wine and a sense of occasion.

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