from one generation to the next
In my typical style it’s the food we ate during our journey that is my most valuable souvenir. On our very first night in Belfast, having flown straight through from Melbourne we opted for a quick and easy pub meal. We made a lucky choice, the seafood pie was sublime.
Once home and in my own kitchen I began attempts to replicate the most memorable food of our travels, the fabulous soda bread served in our B&B in Kinsale, the apple pie in Athalone and all the wonderful fish pies I ate around Ireland, England and Scotland.
Five times I’ve made expensive but bland seafood pie. No amount of quality homemade fish stock, local smoked salmon or crustaceans seem to be able to reproduce that unique and delicious flavour.
The one ingredient that seemed to be a constant in all the recipes of UK origin that I read was smoked haddock. Unpleasant memories of boiled orange smoked cod from my childhood kept crowding my sense of reason, and buying imported processed fish was contrary to my food ethic. How much did I want this seafood pie?
This week my fishmonger’s display included undyed smoked haddock. I found the temptation too great and succumbed in an Irish reverie.
The flavour of smoked haddock is unique and for me, it’s THE essential ingredient in a successful seafood pie. Smoked haddock was one third of my total weight of seafood. It imparted a gentle smokiness to enhance rather than dominate the flavours of the sea. My luxurious pie was bulked out with a combination of mild flavoured white fleshed fish, prawns and scallops, but by adding just fish you’d have a more economical, but equally tasty option.
250g smoked haddock
350 mls fish stock*
250 mls light cream ( I used lactose free)
1 small fennel bulb, shaved
2 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
2 strips of lemon peel
6 large green prawns, peeled, deveined and halved
150g scallops with roe, trimmed of digestive tracts
1 heaped dessertspoon GF plain flour
1 heaped dessertspoon maize flour
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons snipped chives
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon butter
Cover the base of a wide pan with the shaved fennel.
Add the bay leaves peppercorns and lemon rind to the pan then add the cream and the stock. Lay the smoked haddock and the fish on top.
Cover the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook the fish for 4 minutes.
Add the prawns and scallops and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Use a slotted lifter to remove the seafood from the pan.
When it’s cool enough to handle, flake the fish discarding any skin and bones.
Divide the seafood between 4X250ml oiled ovenproof dishes and chill until needed
Strain the poaching liquid and discard the solids.
Set aside 450mls of poaching liquid for the sauce and keep the remainder, about 150mls, for mashing the potatoes.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Peel the potatoes and bring to the boil in a pot of cold salted water. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Drain the potatoes in a colander.
While the potatoes are still hot bring the poaching liquid you set aside to the boil in the potato pot. Return the potatoes to the pan, add the butter then mash the potatoes into a smooth stiff cream. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.
Whisk together the 450 mls of cooled poaching liquid and flours in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Once the sauce has thickened continue to simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce should be smooth and glossy.
Stir in the chives and lemon zest and season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the seafood.
Top the pies with mashed potatoes, then bake for 30 minutes. The potatoes tops should be golden.
Serve with steamed green vegies.
* I keep homemade fish stock in the freezer. It’s useful for risotto, soups, curries, pasta sauces and pies. My fishmonger happily gives away fish heads and skeletons normally discarded after filleting. Non oily, white fleshed fish makes the best stock, snapper, barramundi etc. Cover the fish bones with cold water, add onion, fennel trimmings, celery, carrot and parsley stems, bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour before straining off and discarding the solids. Strain a second time through a fine meshed seive. Use within 24 hours or store in the freezer.