You Say Potato, I Say Pastry

Can the world have enough fish pie recipes?  I don’t think so.  This one from Rick Stein’s Fruits of the Sea is delicious and distinct.  Halfway between mashed potatoes and pastry, the crust is tasty and golden when finished.  This is a bit more fiddly than your typical thrown together pie and if you live in a warm climate you need to work quickly to keep the crust cool and binding, but it’s great when you want something a little special.

Per usual we did many substitutions for health’s sake.  We used non-fat milk, white wheat flour, margarine, and skipped the bacon.  Even with these changes the filling was quite rich.  Not having any fish stock or fish bones we substituted chicken stock with a dab of anchovy paste. (I suspect this might be blasphemous to Mr. Stein since his book contains an essay on the importance of proper stock which I one hundred percent agree with but sometimes you have to make do.)  You can substitute cod for the haddock and shallots for the leeks.

A note on the self-rising flour:  I find it is so rarely called for that a large bag will sit on the shelf until way past the use by date.  It is easier to make it as needed by sifting together 1 cup all purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder.

Ceramic pie funnels in the shape of a singing white bird can be found at Bed Bath and Beyond for a dollar each.  To our guest’s disappointment they do not sing when done.

Haddock and Cornish Yarg Pie with a Potato Pastry Crust

Serves 6

16 fl oz milk
10 fl oz fish stock
1 1/2 lb haddock fillet
10 oz leeks
2 1/2 oz butter
2 oz carrots, finely diced
2 oz celery, finely diced
2 oz onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 oz rindless smoked streaky bacon, thinly sliced
2 oz plain flour
4 oz cooked peeled prawns
4 oz Cornish Yarg cheese, grated
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Potato Pastry Crust

12 oz potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
8 oz self-raising flour
1 teaspoon salt
15 turns of the black pepper mill
6 oz butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons cold water
1 egg, beaten

For the Bouquet Garni

1 bay leaf
1 small bunch of fresh parsley stalks
Leaves from the center of 1 head of celery
1 small sprig of fresh thyme

For the pastry, cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender.  Drain well and either mash or pass through a potato ricer.  Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, put the milk and fish stock into a large pan and bring to boil.  Add haddock and simmer for 5-7 minutes, until firm and opaque.  Lift fish out on to a plate and, when cool enough to handle, break flesh into large flakes, discarding any skin and bones.

Clean the leeks, finely dice 2 oz of them and set aside.  Thinly slice the remainder.  Melt 1 oz of butter in a clean pan, add the sliced leeks and fry gently for 2-3 minutes, until just cooked.  Lift out with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the diced leek, carrot, celery, onion and bacon to the pan with a little more butter if necessary.  Fry over gentle heat for 10 minutes without letting them brown.  Add the remaining butter to the vegetables, stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the cooking liquid from the haddock, stirring all the time to make a smooth sauce.  Bring to the boil, stirring.  Tie together all the ingredients for the bouquet garni and add to the pan.  Simmer gently for 30 minutes, then remove the bouquet garni from the pan and season the sauce with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Stir in the flaked fish, reserved leeks, prawns and Cornish Yarg into the sauce, spoon into a deep 48 oz pie dish and push a pie funnel into the center of the mixture.  Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile for the pastry, sift the flour, salt and pepper into a bowl.  Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.  Add the cold potato and lightly mix into the flour, then add the water and stir with a round-bladed knife until everything starts to stick together.  Form into a ball, turn out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly until smooth.  Chill for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface until it is slightly larger than the top of the pie dish.  Cut a thin strip off the edge of the pastry, brush with a little water and press it on to the rim of the pie dish.  Brush with a little more water.  Make a small cut in the center of the remaining pastry and then lay it over the pie so that the funnel pokes through the cut.  Press it on to the rim of the dish and crimp the edge decoratively with your fingers.  Brush the top with beaten egg and decorate with leaves cut from the pastry trimmings if you wish.  Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden.

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