Fish Pie, a hug in an oven dish

Fish Pie to me really is comfort food. Creamy sauce, chunks of beautiful flaky fish and fluffy, cheesy mashed potato. It’s not difficult to make, it just takes a little time. It’s a great prepare ahead dish if you bring it up to room temperature an hour or so before you want to cook it. We’ve had cold foggy days, gloriously sunshiny days…it’s so hard to know what to cook. This always seems to fit the bill though!

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You can keep it basic for a mid week family meal, or if you add scallops, prawns, capers and a mix of your favourite fish it really can be grand enough for entertaining. The  choice is yours, you don’t need to be rigid with the measurements…make it your own! I make my bechamel the easy, all-in-one way and use olive oil instead of butter, but do feel free to make it the more traditional way making a roux of flour and butter then gradually adding the milk if you prefer.

Ingredients (to serve 4 generously)

  • Approx 400g of mixed fish (I used cod, smoked haddock, salmon and prawns)
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • Approx 1kg floury potatoes, peeled and boiled until soft enough to mash
  • Olive oil (or butter to add to the mash plus about 100ml of milk)
  • 450ml of milk (full fat or semi skimmed)
  • A bay leaf and a few peppercorns
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • A cup of frozen peas or 2 cups of washed fresh spinach
  • About 2 tablespoons of grated cheese (I used cheddar)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: a tablespoon each of finely chopped parsley, capers and gherkins

Place the fish in the milk with the bay leaf and peppercorns and heat gently. Once bubbles appear on the surface of the milk, remove the fish with a slotted spoon  and set aside. Allow the milk to cool completely. This stage can be carried out the day before if it’s easier.

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Add the flour and olive oil to the cold milk and bring gently to a simmer, whisking as you do. The sauce will start to thicken. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes then remove from the heat. Break the fish into chunks then stir into the white sauce with the chopped egg and capers, gherkins and parsley if using. Now add the frozen peas (no need to defrost, they’ll cook in the oven)  or spinach and stir to mix in well. Season, taste and adjust if necessary.

Pour the  mixture into an ovenproof bowl (deep enough for a layer of mashed potato on top). Allow to cool down a little.

Mash the cooked potatoes while they are still hot, adding a generous slug of olive oil or a large knob of butter as you mash. When it’s free of lumps, whisk in the milk adding enough to give a soft, smooth purée that will hold its shape. Don’t use all the milk if it starts looking too wet, add extra if the potatoes are particularly dry.

Spoon (or pipe, if you’re that way inclined) the potato on top of the fish. Run a fork over it if you haven’t piped it as this will give you lots of lovely tiny peaks which will go brown and crunchy in the oven.

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Bake at 180° fan (190° regular oven) for 30 minutes then sprinkle the grated cheese over the potato and bake for a further 10 minutes until the pie is bubbling and browned.

Leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy the fish pie love and hopefully someone else will offer to do the washing up…

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Spring Chicken One Pot

 
Bedding Down for a Slow Braise

Now, before I get going I have to apologise that I haven´t posted a photo of the finished dish!  It´s been a cold, wet rainy day up the mountain after a very stormy night.  Big Man, the two dogs and I were tired and grizzly after a night of no sleep and needed comfort food to fill our bellies and soothe our frazzled nerves.  I can only think that we were so in need of something calming that we were tucking in and sipping a glass of Rioja before I realised that I hadn´t snapped the finished result. Apologies, it was a delicious bowl of braised chicken, spring vegetables and steaming mashed potatoes.

Because we don´t have a machine to pluck our chickens for us, and as I don´t have the patience to pluck chickens “en masse”, they are skinned after dispatch and usually cut up and frozen.  One chicken was kept whole so that I could cook a one pot dish, and today was its day.  I cooked it slowly on the hob in a large tagine that I have, but it can equally well be cooked in a heavy based saucepan with a tight fitting lid (I think they may be called Dutch Ovens in the US) either on the hob or in a very slow oven.

It´s a simple dish with only a little preparation, then you go away and forget about it for a few hours whilst enjoying the smells of slowly braising chicken wafting through your home. 

Here´s how to do it…

  • One whole chicken (with or without skin) or chicken pieces for however many people you are cooking for
  • About 3-4 carrots per person, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • A cup of broad beans per person  (but  feel free to use whatever vegetable is seasonal)
  • Half an onion roughly chopped per person
  • A tablespoon of chopped parsley and of olive oil per person
  • Grated lemon rind to taste and the juice of half a lemon per person
  • Seasoning
  • About 2 medium potatoes per person, peeled and quartered – keep these in a bowl of water until needed
  • Extra olive oil
  • Milk (optional)

Mix the carrots, beans, onion, parsley, lemon zest, juice and olive oil in a bowl.  Season to taste.

Crunchy Spring Vegetables

Put half the vegetable mix at the bottom of your cooking dish then place the chicken on top.  Use the rest of the vegetables to fill the chicken cavity and tuck and the lemon shells in with the chicken.

Rub a little olive oil, salt and pepper over the chicken, put the lid on and place on a low heat.  This needs to cook very slowly for about two hours.  Check every so often and if it looks as though it´s drying out, add about half a glass of water.  If the lid of your pot fits well, you should find that the chicken starts to cook in its own steam.  When the chicken is almost cooked (i.e. it looks cooked on the outside but the juices do not quite run clear when you stab a thigh with a skewer), remove the lemon shells and put the potatoes in on top of the bed of vegetables and around the chicken.

The potatoes will take about another half an hour to cook, by which time the chicken will be cooked.

Remove the potatoes and mash with a little milk or the juice from the chicken and vegetables – it´s your choice!

Serve the chicken with the vegetables and mashed potato.  Now you only have one cooking pot to wash up and, if you have them, you can use any leftovers plus the bones to make a delicious stock for another day.