Seafood Recipes

Dearie’s Fish Pie

November 25, 2008

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You remember Dearie right? No? She is my mother…. I did a post a while back about cooking with her when my folks were here for a long visit. Oh, and then there was the post about us cooking Meringues together too.

She was the woman that got me into cooking. Danika is the woman that keeps me cooking! Dearie would always cook from scratch when we were kids, and somehow managed to drum into us troublesome boys (I have a twin brother, who is an excellent nature photographer) about the importance of wholesome ingredients, and cooking from the ground up. No cheating. It never felt like a lesson though. Thanks to her, we both have the spark for cooking.

If it wasn’t for Danika, I doubt I would be cooking much at all! You know the thing.. it is really hard cooking for one person. Cooking for someone? Well, then it is time to go all out. She is also the one that teaches me a ton about food nutrition and health.

Anyhow. When we were growing up Dearie would often make a fish pie. It was one of Chris’s (the darling twin brother) and my favorite things to eat – especially in the winter time. You had shrimp, fish and herbs all in a smooth flavorful béchamel sauce – topped with mashed potatoes. It doesn’t get much better when you have spent a day freezing cold on a river bank, trying to catch a fish, and using your lunch up as bait, than to come home to one of Dearie’s great fish pies.

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For some reason I thought about that wonderful fish pie last week. That was it. I had to make it. Truth be told, I had never made it before. I would ask Dearie for the recipe and would get “Oh Matt, it is all in my head.. a little of this, a little of that – I wouldn’t be able to write down measurements”. “That is fine, just send it to me, I can work it out!” would be my answer.

Well, after begging again she finally emailed through the recipe. Yep, she was right, no measurements really to speak of – but that is fine, I don’t often work by measurements anyhow. Cooking for me is intuitive, never quite the same twice, with slight variations in amounts depending on how things are cooking.

Dearie would make a one large pie – big enough to feed the four of us (and then some to be honest). I wanted to change it up a little, and make individual ones. I love the personal nature of a small pie dish placed in front of you, and you know that is all yours. There is something amazing about breaking through that crust on top, and letting the aromatic fish/herb blend just come wafting up. You don’t get that so much with a portion of fish pie on a plate – the cook has already done the dishing.

So this is it really. I wouldn’t dare add my twist to this recipe. Heck, I wouldn’t know where to start, or even bother, it is bloody fabulous just the way it is. Down to earth, simple, a little luxury at the end of the day that is delicious and comforting.

Thanks Dearie, I finally have the recipe, and it is as good as I remember it to be.

And in other news.. I might not have mentioned that Danika, my wife, is the Christmas Queen. She has outdone herself this year however – we have decoration up before Thanksgiving. Blimey. Drake loves it though, the dancing Santa is driving me insane however. Right now the little lad is buying it when I tell him “no Drake, sorry mate, Santa is sleeping”, because I really don’t want to hear “Rocking around the Christmas Tree” over and over at 6:30am……

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NOTE: below is the exact recipe Dearie sent me – like I mentioned, the measurements are rather flaky. If anyone really wants to make it, email me and I will try and work out some of them.

Dearie’s Fish Pie (serves 2)

12oz firm white fish – coley, pollock, cod, haddock etc. (halibut is too soft)

A small piece of white smoked fish – haddock or cod (optional)

A good handful of cooked prawns – big ones but, if very large, cut up

Chopped parsley – quite a lot

Chopped dill – a little

Bayleaf

Grated nutmeg

Lemon

Butter

Plain flour

¾ pint of full fat milk

Potatoes

Hard boiled egg

Peel, boil and mash potatoes with butter and keep warm.

Heat oven to 180ºC.

Cook fish in approx ¾ pint of full fat milk, a bayleaf and salt and pepper until not quite cooked but able to remove skin.

Make white sauce (béchamel) using the fishy milk (strained), butter, plain flour, pinch of grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Sauce needs to be thickish and not too runny.

Add chopped parsley to the white sauce + squeeze of lemon to taste.

Skin and flake the fish and add to sauce with prawns and chopped egg – fold everything together without breaking up the fish or the egg.

Taste and adjust seasoning, lemon, parsley, nutmeg etc.

Grease (i.e. with butter) ovenproof dish which is large enough to take the fish mixture and the mashed potato. (NOTE: I used separate dishes here, not one large one).

Put the fish mixture in the dish and leave for 5-10 minutes to get a skin. Then spread mashed potato on top starting at the outside edges and working in to get a good seal at the edge. If you have got any breadcrumbs, sprinkle a few on the top.

Place in oven for approx 20 minutes until nicely brown on top and bubbling underneath.

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  • sue bette November 25, 2008 at 11:48 am

    I have been wanting to make something like this for a while now – creamy comfort food, perfect for the changing season. I’ve been on a make it in individual size portion kick as well, especially with desserts.
    Have a great holiday & thanks for sharing a family recipe!!

  • Jesse November 25, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Wow, I’ve never had fish pie before, but this does look like the perfect comfort food for winter. Thank you for this recipe!

  • Meg November 25, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    That fish pie looks delicious – and the tree is a work of art!

  • [eatingclub] vancouver || js November 25, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Fantastic-looking fish pie, Matt! Makes me want to have one right now: never had it before. But you’re right about cooking from the ground up — no cheating, that is the best. So I probably have to make myself one. 🙂

    My mother is a Christmas-lover too. You wouldn’t believe how many Santa-things she has. Great to see that it isn’t an isolated condition. 😉

  • Y November 26, 2008 at 1:14 am

    That Christmas tree looks amazing! There’s nothing like celebrating Christmas with kids around. I’m hoping my sister will bring hers over from New Zealand next year. Fish pie sounds great too – I love the recipe 😀 It’s the kind of way I cook at home – a bit of this, a bit of that..

  • jane November 26, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Thank you for the nice recipe, this is what I am going to make tomorrow!!!

  • the projectivist November 26, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    gosh, what lovely pictures you have over here!
    your fish pie doesn’t look half bad either! i’d like to give yours a whirl (i usually make Jamie Oliver’s version, but haven’t for a very long time), the weather here is rainy and cold – and fish pie is the perfect antidote to that.

  • pixen November 27, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    wow i love your wife’s Christmas tree decorations!!!!!!!!!!!! Just looking at the photo, I imagined I was sitting looking up the tree! Yeah, I’m like Smurfette when comes to Christmas Tree. I think it’s due to living in Belgium… LOL. In Brussels @ Grand Place, surrounded by ice-skating ring and Christmas Market, there would be a tallest Christmas Tree given by a country in the EU alternately each year with loads of decorations and gorgeous Brussels patron saint Archangel Michael on top. Oh not forgetting the Vin Chaude 😀

    Opps… back to the fish pie, I think I will choose red snapper, lemon sole or garoupa because my hubby dislike some of the fish grrrrrrrrrr. Your version is very simple and just like my mom, she never use measurement cups for her cooking yet the taste always consistence! Please say thank you to your wife from me 🙂

    Cheers and Happy Holidays!

  • White On Rice Couple November 28, 2008 at 2:53 am

    This is definitely the wonderful family post, where all your amazing talents are highlighted! Dearie makes another appearance with her delicious fish pie, Danika is an OMG beautiful decorator (looooove the tree!) and your Bro (you’re a twin!!) is a talented photographer.

    Now we see where you get all your inspired talent from! 😉

    Happy Thanksgiving guys! Big hugs to you….

  • brittany November 28, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    oooh, you know I love anything when It’s served to me in an individual little pot.
    Looks cozy and delish. Beautiful tree, though I have a slight intolerance for the christmas carols….
    Happy thanksgiving!

  • diva November 29, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    fish pie is definitely one of my favourite dishes to have at winter! and this is one gorgeous pie. awww and that christmas tree is stunning. i can’t wait to start setting ours up with over-the-top decoration. x

  • Shari November 30, 2008 at 4:15 am

    This dish sounds very comforting. And I love the rustic look of that first photo.

  • Heather December 1, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    A real cook knows what to do with a list of ingredients (especially if he/she grew up eating it), and doesn’t really need measurements. This is really the nature of passed-down recipes, and is what makes them so special.

  • Brooke December 1, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Matt,
    It’s funny how food cravings can be transmitted by simply reading great food writing and seeing a captivating photo! You certainly have me wanting a bit of Dearie’s (and your) fish pie! Now that it’s starting to get California cold out, I think I might start collecting up the ingredients to make one for me and my dear (kitchen work inspiring) husband.

    Happy, happy,
    Brooke (ps, what a gorgeous Christmas tree!)

  • Cari Snell October 26, 2009 at 3:16 am

    Oh how this seafood pie looks heavenly! We’d love to feature it on dinnervibe.com if you are keen, with full credits and a link back to your site. Please let me know at cari@dinnervibe.com. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  • Jen November 15, 2010 at 5:40 am

    My sister referred me to this site for some photography lighting tips, but then I saw that he had recipes posted too. I came to this one, and thought I’d give it a try. I made it tonight, and LOVED IT! I was a little skeptical, never having used this mix of flavors before, but soooo good. I used Cod as the main fish, and I don’t even like Cod usually, but that’s all we had at the grocery store here in Utah from the list Matt provided. I was nervous, but the Cod really works in this recipe.