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.
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……
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
¾ pint of full fat milk
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.