My friend E has moved to Paris, but from time to time when something brings her back to Manchester she might stay at mine. Knowing that I can't possibly compete with French Cuisine and knowing what it means to live abroad and miss some things from 'home', I usually try to cook something very British on the nights she stays.
When E stayed a couple of weeks ago I decided to make a fish pie. I don't know why I don't make it more often, because it is delicious, comforting and if you keep yourself a little organised in the kitchen it isn't all that much faff either. You can also play around with it a bit. I added some steamed, sliced carrot this time and have also used prawns in the past.
Fish Pie (serves 4)
500g mixed fish (haddock or other white fish, smoked haddock, salmon), cut bite-sized
a little butter for the dish
a bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
a little nutmeg
a small bunch of dill, roughly chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped coarsly
3/4 cup of frozen peas
1 onion, chopped fairly fine or a finely sliced leek
2 - 2 1/2 cups left-over mashed potato (of course you can make it fresh)
Check the fish for any stray bones.
Place the fish in a shallow pan and pour over the milk to cover the fish.
Add the bay leaf, peppercorns and a very fine grating of nutmeg.
Place over a moderate heat, turning it down just before the milk boils.
Leave to simmer gently for 5-10 minutes, until the fish is opaque and tender.
Turn off the heat, remove the fish and strain the liquor to remove the bay leaf.
Melt 40g of butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook till pale biscuit-coloured, stirring almost constantly.
Take of the heat and pour in the strained cooking liquid from the fish (adding more, if necessary, to make 500ml) little by little whilst stirring. Continue until you have added all the liquid and the sauce is smooth.
Return to the hob, bring to a simmer and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
Fold in the fish and peas.
Season with salt, pepper, dill and parsley.
While the sauce is cooking, cook the onions (or the sliced leek) over a low heat in a little butter until they are soft.
You want them to go soft but not colour. Placing a lid on your pan and stirring regularly will help.
Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4.
Gently fold the onions into the fish sauce, add the chopped egg and then transfer to an ovenproof dish.
Top the dish with mashed potato and rough up the top so that you'll have some nice crispy bits once it has baked.
Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven until crisp and golden, and the filling is bubbling.