Fish Pie

It was only after I met Pat and spontaneously mentioned my cooking concept idea of involving the local community and its ‘gourmets’ that Pat enthusiastically confessed she can make a mean fish pie! So date/time and place were set almost immediately and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Pat. Had it not been for her enthusiasm and willingness to set-aside cooking time, I am not sure this feature would have realised as part of this blog.

I spent an afternoon with Pat and in between cooking, photographing and enjoying some wine, I learned about her travels. Her time spent in Nigeria since she first moved there in 1962 (based 130 miles from the Sahara desert) her ‘escape’ from Australia and that it was her love for Zambia that brought her to South Africa and had her settled in Sedgefield. At the age of 56, she completed her Masters Degree in Counselling, and together with a background in catering and cooking, she is one interesting individual! And if you ever have or have had the privilege of enjoying her company, you will surely admire her for a lot of things of which ‘boring’ is not one! She also includes the process of ‘studding’ in the making of the fish pie, which was a new concept to me.

I add a quote from her kitchen board which I thought was brilliant! It states the following:

Feminism: ‘I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.’

Recipe:

(Feeds 6 greedy and 8 polite people)

“A good fish pie can be eaten anytime, by anyone, anywhere – even the “I don’t like fish” brigade enjoy this dish. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you wish, depending on personal taste, the diners and of course finances” – Pat

Fish

Use a mixture of 250 – 500g white fish such as gurnard, hake or whiting, etc.

250 – 500g smoked haddock

200g shrimps or prawns (if frozen, defrost first)

Method: Cook gently in 2 litres full cream milk – white fish first, followed by the haddock until bubbles appear. Turn off heat. Test gently with a fork – keep in mind it will be reheated later. Reserve the milk for sauce and mashed potatoes. Once the fish has cooled down, flake the fish gently with your fingers, feeling for and removing any bones.

Potatoes

Peel 1 – 2kg potatoes. Boil, strain and mash with some of the reserved milk and a good knob of butter. (please don’t use margarine)

Eggs

Hard boil as many eggs as there are people (intended to eat the fish pie). Shell and slice or quarter. I prefer a mixture of both.

Vegetables

400g of a mixture of any of the following in order to get a wide variety and colour mix: Chopped onions or spring onions or small leeks;

Broccoli

Frozen peas

Sliced mushrooms

Sauté in butter first the broccoli, then the sliced mushrooms and finally the onions or leeks.

Add the peas and set aside.

White Sauce (Bechamel)

750ml of the retained milk

5 table spoons butter

5 tablespoons plain (cake) flour

Salt and pepper to taste

For a thicker sauce, Bechamel can be made, by adding a small onion studded with 4 dried cloves.

Add roughly10 black peppercorns after the fish has been seasoned and leaving them to steep.

Reheat the milk when you’re ready and strain before mixing with butter and flour.

Taste for flavours.  Add some cream for extra smoothness.

Mix all the vegetables into the sauce.

Drain the shrimps/prawns and gently add to mix with flaked fish. Pour into individual pie dishes or one large dish.

Carefully arrange the eggs between layers. Top with mashed potatoes, starting at the centre of the dish and working outward. Score with a fork.

Heat up in the oven or brown under the grill. It should be served warm rather than piping hot.

May be made a day or two in advance and kept in the fridge until needed. Freezes well, however omit the hard boiled eggs when freezing and add once thawed and ready to re-heat.

Parting shot…my new friend, Pat…

…and her cat… (smile)

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