#1 – 48 Recipe Challenge: Recipe 47 – Fisherman’s Pie
I’m nearing the end of this challenge now – just two recipes to go, so I thought I really had better do something different this time and push myself a bit farther out of my comfort zone. 46 recipes so far; 25 savoury, 21 sweet, a variety of new ingredients and new techniques sampled, largely successfully. But, not one single one of those 46 recipes has featured fish.
Four years ago when I started this challenge I wouldn’t eat fish (or indeed any form of seafood) in pretty much any format other than fish fingers. Even the smell of fish made me gag, there was no way I was going to put it in my mouth. In my world, going to the fish and chip shop for tea actually meant chicken pie and chips for tea. I blame the fish van which used to come to our village on Fridays and sell Mum bright yellow smoked haddock which we’d then have to have for dinner. I’m sure it probably wasn’t actually every Friday of my childhood, but it felt like it. As soon as I had a choice about what I was eating, fish was out.
However, when I booked my trip to Japan (Challenge 2), I realised it would be sensible to train myself to eat at least some fish and seafood in order to properly experience Japanese cuisine, and then the Chinese and Thai cookery course I took for Challenge 33 introduced me to cooking with prawns. After that I got really brave and on two occasions have actually ordered fish in restaurants (always a risk because if you don’t like it you’ve still got to pay for it). Most recently I had Gurnard in a Bacon and Mussel Sauce from River Cottage Canteen. It was absolutely to die for. (I’m still scared of fish if it has a head and tail mind you, mainly because I have no idea what to do with it, and having tried both mussels and oysters I’m sticking with prawns! But at least I’ve given a few more things a go.)
I do occasionally cook a cod fillet at home when I am trying to eat very low calorie meals and am fed up with chicken, but in that case I generally drown it in a ratatouille so I can’t actually taste the fish. For this month’s recipe however, I wanted to choose a dish that made the fish the star. I turned to a classic; a good, old fashioned Fisherman’s Pie and of course it had to be a Delia recipe I followed for such a traditional dish.
A cheffy friend gave me three tips when I mentioned that I was going to be making a fish pie. They were:
1 – Poach the fish in milk to cook them then use that milk to make the béchamel sauce.
2 – Smoked haddock is a must.
3 – Dot cubes of mozzarella amongst the fish sauce before you put the mash on top.
I was relieved to see the Delia recipe (taken from her Complete Cookery Course) did indeed require me to poach the fish in milk and then use that milk for the béchamel, but smoked haddock? My childhood nemesis…. I decided that if I was pushing myself I might as well do it properly, so smoked haddock was in – along with cod and hake.
Assembling the pie was actually quite time consuming with lots of processes required. It reminded me a little of putting together a lasagne in that there was quite a lot of work to get through before really getting anywhere; the fish had to be cooked through, the potatoes and eggs boiled, potatoes mashed and a béchamel sauce made all before actually starting on the construction of the pie itself. None of those processes were especially difficult though, so I worked my way through them and was then ready to start assembling my pie.
First the sauce in the bottom, complete with prawns, the flaked fish, parsley, and chopped boiled eggs.
Here I deviated slightly from the recipe. I left out the capers in Delia’s recipe because I think they’re a dominant flavour and I suspected they would overpower it, and I added the cubed mozzarella as suggested by my friend, basically on the grounds that I really don’t think it’s possible to have too much cheese so adding it to a recipe isn’t going to do anything other than improve it.
Next I had to layer the mash over the top, smooth it out and (for some reason) pattern it with a knife. Since I knew I’d be photographing it, I made a special effort to make it neat. I hope you’re suitably impressed.
All that remained was to scatter over some grated Cheddar cheese and then bake it.
I was rather pleased with how it turned out. Nicely browned on top without being burnt (a minor miracle with my appalling oven):
I served it simply with steamed broccoli, and we loved it. It was oozy, creamy, comforting… I’m really pleased that the recipe generated a huge quantity so there are now several portions in the freezer to treat myself to another day. A great success for my first proper attempt at cooking fish, and I even enjoyed the smoked haddock. Perhaps I’ll try a few more fish recipes in future.
Scores for this one are:
Healthiness – 5/10 (Yes, the fish is good for you but there’s A LOT of butter and potato in this recipe)
Ease of prep – 5/10 (The processes aren’t difficult, there’s just quite a lot of them so it takes a bit of time)
Flavour/taste – 10/10 (Just sooooooooo good. Proper comfort food)
The actual recipe I used isn’t available online, but this one shares the same base. Don’t forget to add the mozzarella! http://www.myhungryfriends.com/fish-pie/