As far as I know—and I could be dead wrong about this—a Fish Pie is traditionally a British dish. I think we just blatantly stole it from them. Like their Sheperd’s pie. And lots of other stuff we’ll never give back.
This is one of those family recipes that’s a food trip down memory lane to me. It’s also the kind of food I really like to share on here, because these type of recipes are my homage to my mother and grandmother. Not to mention this is the ultimate comfort food to me; hearty, filling but definitely light enough to be eaten all year round.
You’ll probably be happy to know that, though there’s white sauce in my fish pie—sorry, but fish pie really needs white sauce—there’s not a drop of cream in it, making it not only a comforting meal that most kids take to naturally because of the mellow flavors, but not too unhealthy either.
1 1/2 pounds potatoes
roughly 2/3 cup of milk
little knob of butter
salt, pepper, nutmeg
Fish & Vegetable:
14 oz white fish
1 1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup vegetable (or fish) broth
1 1/2 cups green peas
1 small onion
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp salt
1 large carrot
5 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 oz butter
1/2 a tsp salt
First things first. The taters; my one true love. I’ve peeled, salted, boiled and mashed my potatoes. Season them with butter, a pinch of extra salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Yup, we add nutmeg to our mashed taters. Heck, we add nutmeg to our meatballs, too.
I know most fish pie recipes call for fresh fish. Feel free to use that if you like, but I opted for frozen fish this time to show you this does not have to be a $25 casserole and still look and taste pretty darn good.
I usually keep a package of frozen white fish in my freezer—could be cod, pangasius or haddock—it’s just so easy to have around and cheaper than fresh fish. It was cod fish this time. I must admit, though, what really gives a fish pie a major boost is adding some salmon, about 5 oz or so.
Place the fish in a deep pan—I always use my Dutch oven for this—and pour in the milk and broth. You can use vegetable or fish broth for it, whatever rocks your boat. I personally lean towards vegetable broth.
I want to up the flavors a little and I do that by peeling a medium onion, cut it in half and stick 3 cloves in there. I know it seems unorthodox, but this is how my grandma did it. Believe me, it works!
Put the onion in with the fish, cloves side down, and season the liquid with 1/2 a tsp salt and one fairly large bay leaf. Bring it to a boil and simmer over low heat for about 8 to 10 minutes. Until the fish starts to flake.
In the mean time I’ve peeled and coarsely grated 1 decent sized carrot and I’ve chopped the other half of the onion.
Another frozen item: 1 1/2 cup pretty green peas. I absolutely prefer frozen peas over fresh ones. Sue me!
And I’ve chopped a big handful of flat-leaf parsley. I absolutely prefer fresh over dried parsley. This was about 4 tbsp parsley.
In the mean time the fish was done. Finito. So I transferred it to a plate.
Discard the onion and bay leaf and sieve the cooking liquid. We’ll use it to make the sauce with.
Let’s move on to the sauce! Melt 3 oz of butter and add 5 tbsp all-purpose flour. Cook the roux for a minute or two (over low heat) to allow the flour to lose its rawness. Then slowly add the sieved cooking liquid until you’ve reached a sauce consistency you like. I used up all the liquid this time.
Season the sauce with salt (1/2 tsp for me), white pepper and simmer for another 3 minutes. Just set it aside while we prepare the vegetables.
Tip: add a splash of white wine for a more adult type of fish pie.
Heat a tiny drop of oil and sautee the carrots and onions for about 5 minutes, until soft. Don’t let them brown, though.
Add the green peas and let it heat through for a few more minutes. Mine were still slightly frozen when I put them in, so I gave them a few extra minutes.
Grate and add the zest of half a lemon and squeeze in some lemon juice as well, about 1 or 2 tbsp. Also get the chopped parsley in there. Trust me when I say the lemon does amazing things to the pie! It doesn’t make it taste real lemony but it adds a freshness and zing that really works.
Transfer the vegetables to an oven dish, add the fish and carefully break it up with a spatula. Be gentle, though, don’t stir that poor fish like a maniac.
Pour the white sauce in there and mix it up gently.
I could just grab a spoon, eat it like this and die a happy woman.
Top it with the mashed potatoes. What I always do is use a fork to draw some stripes in the potatoes. Don’t ask me why, one of my many idiosyncrasies, I guess.
Top the mashed potatoes with a generous amount of cheese. Cheddar and Gouda both work really well for this, but I wouldn’t go for a very sharp (aged) cheese. It just doesn’t really add to the laid back flavors of the fish pie.
Bake the casserole at 350F (175C) for about 30 to 40 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown.
Fish Pie is your friend. Fish Pie is love. Fish Pie is …. well, you catch my drift, right? I just know you want to dig your fork in there!
Kay’s Recipe Card
Click here for printable size.