Nursery Fish Pie
I start with this recipe for the simple reason that it was what I made on the evening following my mother’s funeral. I don’t think anyone wants to cook in the immediate shock of bereavement and in my experience you are anyway likely to need something like an overordered Chinese takeout, but a few days of cooking can be a calming act, and since the mind knows no rest and has no focus, the body may as well be busy. Or you may be making this for others in need.
You can assemble the pie in advance and reheat when you want, but in that case it is important that the fish and sauce should be cold before they are combined, and put to one side. As long as the fish is fresh, you could do this a day in advance. I wouldn’t spatch the potatoes on until I was putting it in the oven, even if I had cooked and mashed them in advance, too.
Total Timeunder 2 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Texturebuttery, creamy, rich
Type of Dishsavory/pot pie
- 3lbs all-purpose potatoes
- 1½ sticks butter
- 1½ lbs haddock
- 2lbs 4oz smoked haddock
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon white peppercorns
- 1 cup frozen peas
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups Cheddar cheese, grated
- 3 hard-boiled eggs
Peel the potatoes and cut them in half or quarters, depending on size, and put them in a pan of salted water to cook from cold. When they’re tender, drain and then mash them with ¾ stick of the butter, seasoning to taste.
Put the fish into a large skillet with the milk, bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring the milk in the pan to a boil, then immediately turn down and simmer the fish until it is just cooked through. Remove the fish to a plate and pour the cooking liquid into a glass measuring cup, straining out the bay leaves and peppercorns.
Meanwhile, put the frozen peas in a bowl, pour over some boiling water and preheat the oven to 375°F, slipping in a baking sheet as you do so.
Melt the remaining ¾ stick butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour to make a roux. Take this off the heat briefly, just while you gradually whisk in the fishy milk, then put back over a medium heat and keep stirring until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Let it bubble away for a couple of minutes and then take off the heat and stir in most of the cheese (leaving some to sprinkle over the top of the pie later) and the drained peas.
Flake the fish, making sure not to let it disintegrate too much, and use it to line a 12-cup ovenproof dish and pour the sauce over, using a rubber spatula to help you distribute it equally and meld it with the fish. Cut the hard-boiled eggs into slices and arrange the golden-centered discs over the top of the fish in sauce. Top with the mashed potato, using a spatula, again, to help you coax it right over the sides. With a fork, scrape lines up and down the length of the dish and then sprinkle with a little grated Cheddar cheese before putting it on the sheet in the oven for 20–40 minutes, depending on whether you’re putting the pie in hot or cold.
2004 Nigella Lawson