Simple pleasures

Ooh, Saucy fish Pie

Every time someone suggests fish pie to me, or says that’s what we’re having to eat, I die a little inside. And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with it, as such. In fact, it’s a rather lovely dish. Comforting and rich, and a good way to get lots of fish into people who don’t particularly like it.

And yet yesterday I woke up with a burning desire, a craving for it. Perhaps Bee, who seems to have a liking of it that doesn’t seem normal, has been whispering in my ear repeatedly as I sleep.

It is really a very simple dish, and in its favour, you can make it ahead and heat it through for supper, as I did for the children. And, predictably, Noah liked it but tried to pick out the spinach and Maya said she hates prawns (the lunatic). Bee thought it was a bit too saucy and had too much spinach, whereas I, the least enthusiastic fish pie eater thought it delicious. But then I made it.

You may squeal with delight at the thought of a fish pie and having made this, I feel a little less antipathy toward it. It’s something comforting, tasty and healthy. Do as you will with it. More cod, fewer prawns, not so much spinach, extra scallops, a thicker sauce with a touch more cheese and flour. It’s up to you, and that is the joy of cooking, we all like things certain ways and you can’t please everyone.

This recipe is a good one so I offer it to you to run with. You can even add hard boiled eggs to the mix if you like. And as far as the bonito and kombu go, that’s up to you too, as is the golden, warming turmeric and citrussy coriander. But it’s little things like that that can make a dish just a little above the ordinary. And actually, looking at the photo reminds me, there’s a portion left in the fridge…

Serves: 6
Prep time: 30-40 mins
Cooking time: 45 mins

For the top:
4 medium potatoes such as Maris Piper, skin on, quartered
100ml double cream
50ml milk
70g butter
A grating of Parmesan for the top

For the filling:
175g Queen scallops
250g smoked haddock or cod, cut into chunks
250g prawns
100g spinach
A small bunch of chives, finely sliced
A grating of nutmeg
1tsp ground turmeric
2tsp ground coriander

For the sauce:
30g butter
30g flour
300ml milk
25g grated mild cheddar
A sheet of kombu (seaweed)
A pinch of bonito flakes

The bonito and kombu are optional in this, it’s just to give it that extra kick of the sea. But if you’re going to use it, heat a little of the milk to just below the boil and pour over them both in a small bowl and leave to infuse while you make the mash.

Cook the potatoes in salty, boiling water until soft, but not falling apart. Drain and leave to steam dry in the colander, otherwise, your mash will be to wet.

Put the spinach in a heat-proof bowl and pour over some boiling water from the kettle. Stir a little then drain and rinse in cold water. Squeeze dry and chop well.

Make the white sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan and mixing in the flour. Season well and gradually whisk in the milk, a little at a time, until you have a smooth white sauce. Add the bonito flakes and milk, leaving out the kombu and then stir in the cheese until melted.

Put the fish and seafood in a bowl, add the chopped spinach, turmeric, coriander and the chives (keep back a little for the mash), season well and stir thoroughly. Pour in the white sauce and mix.

Heat the butter, cream and milk in a small pan until the butter has melted then rice the potatoes into a bowl and discard the skins.  Add the butter mixture, season well and mix until smooth. Stir in the chives.

Put the fish mix in an oven dish and top with the potato and any remaining chives. Give a twist of pepper and sprinkle over the parmesan and cook in a 180c oven for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden and bubbling. Garlic green beans are delicious on the side.

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