Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Fish pie

I didn’t much like fish pie when I was a child, I seem to remember. Possibly it was the colourlessness of it – white fish, in a white sauce, topped with white mashed potatoes. Maybe I thought it was a tad bland, taste-wise, too. Or maybe it was just because it was my brother’s favourite.

Now I love it. There’s just something so natural about the combination of fish and potatoes (like in those fishcakes). It’s a comforting, comfortable, rainy-day kind of food.
Of course there are a bazillion recipes and permutations out there – if I were making it purely for myself (or for company) I’d include a mixture of smoked and unsmoked fish, plus prawns, capers, spinach and hard-boiled eggs. However in the interests of serving it to my ingredient-phobic children I’m keeping it simple. Perhaps when they’re acclimatised I’ll try introducing some extra rogue elements, one at a time…

4/5 large Maris Piper potatoes
50g butter, divided
500g fish (I use a mixture of ‘responsibly sourced’ salmon and Pollack)
500ml milk
1 bayleaf
1tbsp plain flour

Peel the potatoes and cut into evenly sized chunks. Boil until tender then drain and mash with 20g of the butter and a splash of the milk to give a smooth, spreadable consistency.

Meanwhile, cut the fish into chunks and place in a shallow, lidded saucepan with the milk and the bayleaf. Bring to a gentle simmer and poach for a few minutes, until the fish becomes firm and opaque. Remove the cooked fish with a slotted spoon and place in the bottom of a deep-sided, oven-proof dish.

In another saucepan, melt the remaining 30g of butter, then add the flour and stir for a minute or so. Add the warm milk in which the fish was cooked a bit at a time, stirring vigorously between additions to prevent lumps from forming. When you have a smooth sauce, pour it over the fish, then put the mashed potato on top and smooth it over.

Family-friendliness rating: BG liked this (in spite of the fact that she doesn’t really like potatoes much). GB refused to touch it (in spite of the fact that he loves mashed potatoes AND really likes salmon when it’s made into fishcakes). What can you do? In the interests and pursuit of a calm family dinner, he ate peas and some plain mashed potato I’d saved for him.

Cleanup rating: Not great. Two pans plus your final dish, which is bound to have bits of browned mashed potatoes stuck to it.

Can you freeze it? Yes, before it goes into the oven. I also think it’s well worth using this as an opportunity to cook for the freezer a bit. If you cook extra of both the fish and the potatoes, you can combine them for fishcakes and freeze those for another day, too.

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