Fisherman's Pie with Sea Spinach
Updated: Jun 18
What luxury… After my fishing trip on Easter Monday I had some white fish fillets sitting in the fridge. I also knew that I had some frozen smoked Haddock and the tail end of a salmon fillet left over from a recent and very tasty salmon en croute! The white fish that I had caught myself were two very underrated species that had been mistreated by chefs and fisherman for many years - whiting and pouting! I knew exactly what I was going to do with them!
Why is it called a Fishermans Pie?
One of the defining characteristics of a fisherman's pie is its versatility in using whatever fish or seafood is readily available. Fishermen would traditionally use the catch of the day or whatever fish they had on hand to prepare the pie. This flexibility allowed them to make use of the freshest and most abundant fish species from their local waters. Utilising what they have at hand, which was usually the cheaper fish that didn't sell at market.
By using a variety of fish, fishermen could create a delicious and diverse pie that showcased the range of seafood from their region. Different types of fish, such as cod, haddock, salmon, or sole, could be combined to add depth of flavour and texture to the dish. Additionally, shellfish like shrimp, mussels, or even crab meat might be included to enhance the seafood medley.
This adaptable approach not only made the most of the available resources but also ensured that the fisherman's pie could be enjoyed throughout the year, as different fish species came into season.
Today, while the specific fish used in a fisherman's pie may vary depending on regional preferences and availability, the essence of the dish remains the same: a comforting and hearty casserole-like pie featuring a medley of fish and seafood, topped with creamy mashed potatoes.
And in this instance, the fish that 'I' had at hand was mainly whiting and pouting..
River Crouch Fish Pie Recipe
10 fillets of whiting or pouting
Tail end fillet of salmon
Tail end fillet of haddock (smoked)
(About 500g to 600g of fish in to total, use what you have at hand)
2 tbsp half fat crème fraiche
Glass of white wine
8 medium potatoes (dependent on the amount of mash you are going to need work out what you’ll need by the size of the pot you are going to cook it in!)
2 handfuls of sea spinach leaves (if unavailable replace with normal spinach)
1 tbsp plain flour
125g cheddar cheese (grated)
From the Garden:
Small bunch of parsley
You’ll need two frying pans, a saucepan and a suitable baking dish for the fisherman’s pie itself. Fill the saucepan with water and get it boiling.. Oh, get the oven on too, about 180 degrees will do it!
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Firstly peel your potatoes cut them into equal sized pieces and then place them in the boiling water, season with salt and allow to cook.
Meanwhile in one of your saucepans place all of the milk, season the milk with both Salt and Pepper and bring the milk up to a simmer. Once simmering, put your fish into the hot milk to poach for 5 minutes (you want the fish slightly underdone!). Remove the fish from the milk and set aside on a warm plate.
Get the second frying pan on the heat and add a little Olive Oil, chop your leek into 1/2 cm rounds and then fry in the oil, once cooked add the white wine to the leeks and allow to reduce for a couple of minutes, place the leeks and wine mixture in a bowl and also set aside. Using the same saucepan that you cooked the leeks in, now use the same pan to melt the butter. Once melted add the flour to create a roux and stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Once your roux has cooked using a sieve pour some of the conserved warm milk into the roux whisking and mixing all of the time. Gradually add more and more of the milk until you have a smooth and creamy white sauce laced with the fresh and smoky fish flavours (reserving a small amount for the mashed potatoes!) you want it to be thick yet pourable. Finally stir in the reduced wine (that is currently with the leeks) and add atbsp of the Crème Fraiche, check the seasoning, white sauce done!
Your potatoes should now be cooked, drain and allow to steam for a minute or so making sure that all of the water has now evaporated off of the potatoes. Mash the potatoes and season generously, add the reserved warm milk (from the fish poaching), a generous glug of Olive Oil, chopped Parsley and a tbsp of crème fraiche. Stir all of the ingredients together and taste, if you are happy with the seasoning and flavour your there!!
Seasoning all of the layers is the trick to a good Fisherman’s Pie.
Now to put the pie together…
Take your fish, I cooked my fillets with the skin on, so at this point I removed the skins from the fillets and checked for any small bones. If you did not cook your fish with the skin on then go straight to checking for bones. Using your hands break the fish into large chunks (small chunks will dissolve into the sauce whilst the pie is cooking). Place the chunks into the bottom of your baking dish making sure to evenly distribute the different types of fish.
Now roughly chop the larger leaves of your uncooked Wild Spinach or Sea Beet (leaving the smaller leaves whole) and place on top of the dish to create a distinct layer.. Now add your leeks on top of Sea Spinach and then evenly spoon your Smoky White sauce over the leeks..
Using two forks I now start to add the mashed potato to the top of the pie, one fork collecting a scoop of potato and the second placing the potato on the pie. When you have completed the layer of potato, again using the forks, make sure that the potato layer is even and there is no gaps at the edge of the pie that the sauce can bubble up from. Using the back of the fork rake small trenches over the top of the potato topping – these trenches will be areas of the topping that will crisp up during cooking!
Then sprinkle the grated Cheddar Cheese over the top of the mashed potato topping. Season the top of the potato again and the finish with a thin drizzle of Olive Oil and place in the oven to cook..
It should take 25 – 30 minutes for the top of the Fisherman’s pie to become brown and crispy and the pie to start bubbling.. Serve the Fisherman’s pie with peas.
Stunning food and perfect for a spring evening when there is a little nip in the air!
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