Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Easy fish pie

My mother will only eat white fish fried in batter, and can't bring herself to handle raw fish. So I never had any exposure to fish during my childhood (later edit: I lied - I ate fish fingers!). I developed the idea that it was something 'other' - something ordinary families didn't cook.

Then I only went and married a descendant of Scandinavian fisherfolk! My husband's beloved grandfather had a fishing boat and earned his keep catching and selling fish (including shellfish). My mother in law will eat pretty much anything that swims in the sea, and would know exactly how to prepare it before doing so. This is somewhat intimidating.

I am still pretty poor with fish, I have to say. The fact that my younger son doesn't enjoy it much possibly has something to do with that, too. But I have added a few fish dishes to my repertoire. This one is probably the easiest of the lot.... and it has the stamp of approval from my fish-resistant younger son, so it must be good!

I haven't used exact quantities, because it's very flexible, but hopefully you'll get the idea and maybe, just maybe, you'll turn out to be the person who was brave enough to try a fish dish for the very first time, using this recipe.

Many fishmongers in the UK prepare what they call 'fish pie mix'. It contains bite-sized pieces of white fish, smoked haddock and salmon. If you are able to get your hands on that, go for it. If not, just buy a few single portions of different types of fish fillets and chop them up together.

Oven temperature

About 100g of fish per person, cut into bite-sized pieces
About 1 large-ish potato per person, peeled and cubed
Mature Cheddar cheese
Salt to taste

  • Using the potatoes, some milk and a little butter (and salt to taste), make a soft mash (I realise I am assuming you know how to do this. If you don't please let me know in the comments, and I will explain)
  • Steam the fish until it flakes easily with a fork. This takes a matter of minutes. I have a microwave steamer which does the trick. But you could a steamer pot, or even a metal colander on top of a saucepan of boiling water (don't forget to cover the fish).
  • Using some of the butter, milk and cornflour, make a white sauce (once again, let me know if you don't know how to do this). You will need about 125ml per person.
  • Mash the fish up in the bottom of an ovenproof dish and then mix in the white sauce.
  • Cover the mixture with mashed potato. Work gently, or you will have fish mixture squooshing up through the mash. If you want to make patterns on top with a fork, you go right ahead.
  • Sprinkle with the grated cheese and a little paprika.
  • Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.
  • Pop under the grill for a few minutes to brown the topping if necessary.
Serve with vegetables. Since the dish isn't very colourful, go for boldly coloured things like broccoli and carrots to add interest to the plate.

  • You could try adding a bit of mustard or a pinch of mustard seeds to the white sauce
  • Alternatively, add some chopped fresh parsley (I love it, but my husband doesn't like it) or dill (which my husband loves... how very Swedish of him!)
  • Experiment with different combinations of fish. I like the blend of salmon with the smokey taste of the haddock and then a little white fish to balance it out, but you might like to try something a little different like mackerel or tiny shrimps.


  1. Another family fave...variants:
    1) Add cheese to the white sauce -fish+cheese=delish
    2) Put cheese on top of the mash
    3) Use half white and half red sweet potato for the mash - either mash together for colour or be adventurous and althernate blobs of each to make a checkerboard effect. makes it a less stodgy dish too as sweet potatoes contain less starch.
    4) Make sure one of the fishes included is smoked - haddock or cod or even use those really cheap smoked salmon offcut packs that most supermarkets now sell.
    5) add prawns to the dish - adds to the look and hugely to the flavour, but might be too 'fishy' for those with a fish aversion.

  2. @Catherine Thanks for that. I think I covered most of those, but I really like the idea of trying sweet potato. I love sweet potato mash as it is, and I reckon that it would be a brilliant foil for the smoky taste of the haddock. Yum!