sharing recipes from one generation to the next
It’s three years since we departed for an epic five month journey to the UK.
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.
Did you venture as far as the Isle of Lewis on your travels? I, going to try this recipe on Sunday we have amazing prawns and scallops available locally 🙂
Sadly no, time was against us, but we’ll return to venture further some day. Enjoy the pie….
So this is the ‘bad’ English food one hears so much about? It sounds delicious! About your reluctance to buy non-local fish — this is the price one pays for being exposed to world cuisine. I would not ever want to give up the experience of tasting foods from diverse parts of the globe. But it does means sometimes that you have to get a certain ingredient from far, far away.
It does Aneela. It’s good to be principaled, but not to the point of being a zealot! The diversity of our population means that their is a plethora of foods available and many are imported
I just love the way you take vacations!!! This fish pie looks really incredible.
Thanks Mimi. I think food plays a big part in your vacations too….
Haddock is a very popular fish at the markets in New England but I’ve never seen it smoked. I’m going to have to check around to see if I can find it smoked as your fish pie sounds terrific.
Thanks Karen. You might get lucky, here’s hoping…..
Great recipe to try when a few friends come down from Sydney’s Fish Market with the requisite supplies . . . . oh I DO wish a had such a fishmonger as you do within 10 kms or so on whom I could practice my charm for a few fish heads and bones 🙂 ! I wonder whether a tad of saffron still in the drawer would help or hinder this. . . ?
Saffron and seafood are wonderful together, but it’s the unique smokiness of the haddock which is the hero here
You are so right . . . mind not in gear . . . !!!!
This is also a memory for me- not so much an English one but I like to think of it as a Celtic memory. This fish pie and the smoky chowders too, and peaty things, and Laphroig whisky. Scottish Cullen skink, and the smoked fish from the west coast of Ireland, the pubs with permanent song, and nooks with whispering aunts and folk who look familiar. This dish takes me back. It always does.
I make it from time to time and I agree that good smoked fish is the essential ingredient for the dish. I still have a wee stash of smoked cod from the Shetland isles. And Victorian scallops are in season too. Oh happy days, bring on this pie. Now I have your recipe here, I’ll stop making it up.
OK! it’s probably a Celtic thing for me too if I think about where the best were eaten! I’m about to try out Cullen skink too, my best Scottish food memory, from the Isle of Skye. I made up my recipe, I’m sure yours in just as good!
This looks so marvelous – and I loved hearing about the smoked haddock. I didn’t grow up eating much fish, but love the flavor and texture of smoked fish. I think this recipe would be one I really enjoy as opposed to one I eat because fish is good for me!!
Oh this is delicious, but not very frugal I’m afraid….
Well, yanno, some things are worth it! And just looking at your gorgeous photos almost made my mouth water!
I’ve never had a fish/seafood pie before. This sounds great! I’ve never seen smoked haddock around here though, and apparently that is essential.
Thanks Stefan, it really is excellent, the smoked haddock makes the difference!
I’m drooling. This is comforting and heavenly all in one bowl!
Spot on, a delicious winter treat!
I absolutely agree with you – it’s the smoked haddock that makes all the difference. Didn’t Francesca have a dye-free source at Preston markets? I sent the details onto my Mum a while back but it’s too far for her to travel these days.
Spot on about the haddock Nancy. Yes I remember Francesca mentioning undyed haddock at Preston Mkt. They have it at Prahran too, that’s where I got it. It looks orange in the photo, but alongside the dyed cod it was the colour of butter.
Mum’s in McKinnon so I’ll let her know she can buy it in Prahran – that’s great to know I’ll make sure I request it for my first supper when I’m next home!
This post is making my mouth water! I Admire your resilience at recipe testing until you got the flavour just the way your remember it.
Some people might think I’m crazy, but I wasn’t determined to enjoy a beautiful seafood pie
I really, really agree with you about the essential and wonderful undyed smoked haddock. Of course, it is a standard offering at my fishmongers – and also at my grocery store. I love prawns and any other sort of shellfish, but cannot make this at home given the food allergies with other members of the family. Although, my mouth is watering for this seafood pie! Maybe I’ll make two – one with and another without shellfish – next time I make fish pie to which I add sweet paprika and a spoon of Dijon mustard to punch up the flavour. I will need to remember your instructions for fish stock next time I’m in the fishmonger – good tip.
I’ll make note of the addition of both mustard and paprika for next time. The smoked haddock really imparts such a wonderful flavour to fish pie, it really makes me wonder why I held out. Do try making your own fish stock, it’s flavour cannot be replicated.
Thats a very posh pie! you really do need the smoked fish in it!
Thanks Mr Fitz! It absolutely needs the smoked fish!
What a lovely recipe! I have never eaten fish pie, but it doesn’t sound too difficult, and we have delicious locally caught and smoked haddock here. At the worst, it comes from the other side of the Channel, not two hours away from where I live.
I was also curious about the bright orange colour of the fish, but I read that when it is done the traditional way, the colour comes from annatto (achiote) powder, so it is actually quite a natural ingredient. Here in Lille it is used to dye mimolette cheese.
Oh well, anyway, your fish pie sounds like something worth trying when it gets colder and I crave comfort food!
It’s definitely a winter warmer Darya, and if you have local smoked haddock, all the more reason to give it a try.