Mum’s smoked fish pie with a
fennel and radish salad
This fish pie is one my Mum has been making since I was a kid and is super comforting and is really economical to make. I actually prefer to use tinned smoked fish - the juices in the tin add more flavour to the pie. The filling also makes the best vol-au-vent filling – simply top puff pastry cups with some of the fillings and garnish with fennel fronds for the perfect canapé!
Time: 20-30 minutes preparation | 30 minutes cooking
For the mashed potato topping
5 large waxy potatoes (1.3kg / 2.8lbs)
50g (2 ½ tablespoons / 2oz) butter, cubed
½ small red onion, very finely diced
1 small bunch of chives, finely sliced
¼ cup milk
⅔ cup grated mild cheese to the top – mozzarella is good
For the fish pie filling
100g (5 tablespoons / 4oz) butter, cubed
⅔ cup flour
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch ground nutmeg
2 cups of milk (+ an extra ⅓ cup if not using tinned fish)
450g (1 lb) tin or freshly smoked fish
½ cup frozen peas
For the salad
½ small red onion
2 large fennel bulbs
Lemon juice and olive oil to dress
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then salt. Peel and cut the potatoes into small chunks and cook until a knife can pierce the centre. While the potatoes are cooking, put the eggs on to boil. As soon as the water boils, time the eggs for 5 minutes, then drain and cool under cold water for a few seconds, then plunge into a bowl of cold water with ice cubes. Set aside for now.
To make the fish pie filling, melt the butter in a large pot over medium/high heat, then add the flour and stir constantly for 1 minute to cook out the flour taste. Add the bay leaf, mustard and nutmeg, and season with a little salt and pepper. Mix well and then pour in 2 cups of cold milk. Cook over medium/low heat, stirring constantly. I use a wooden spoon to get the clumps from around the edges of the pot, then a whisk to smooth it out. Once the sauce gets thick (I would best describe the consistency as in-between a thick custard and Greek yoghurt), remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf.
If you are using tinned smoked fish, whisk the liquid from the can into the sauce. If you are using freshly smoked fish and don't have this extra liquid, whisk in an extra ⅓ cup of milk. Flake the fish into the sauce and stir in the frozen peas. Drain and peel the eggs, cut these into quarters, then gently fold them into the mixture. Taste, and season with a little salt and pepper. Spoon out into a medium-sized ovenproof baking dish.
Once the potatoes are cooked, drain well and add back to the pot. Mash with the butter, red onion and chives, and once the butter is fully incorporated, add the milk to loosen the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and then dollop over the fish pie filling, smoothing the top and then sprinkle over the grated cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden. You might need to switch the oven on to the grill setting for the last 2 minutes just to brown the top, but keep a close eye on it.
While the pie is cooking, make your salad. I used my mandolin to slice the vegetables really thin. Put everything into a bowl of water with ice cubes, and let it sit for 15 minutes to get the vegetables super crisp. Drain and spin out excess water (either in a salad spinner or in a clean dry tea towel), then add to a serving bowl. Season with flaky sea salt, pepper, lemon juice and good olive oil to taste. Serve with the hot fish pie.