Friday, May 14, 2010
Friday Smoked Fish Pie
I've always loved the sweet flavour of smoked fish. Of course it's better if it's a gourmet kind. Wellington's new Hill St Farmer's Market (Saturday mornings) sells superb fresh and smoked fish caught off the Wairarapa coast. But perfectly ordinary and often quite cheap supermarket smoked fish is not to be despised.
Harvey's mother boiled smoked fish in water and served it with spuds. Mine poached it in milk with a bit of butter, and served it on hot buttered toast. I follow her, and Harvey has graciously got used to it. After I've poached it briefly in milk, it might turn into kedgeree or some kind of fish pie. It's the contrast between the creamy fish and the crisp pastry that I like, plus the fact it's so easy.
Tonight I made a pie using savoury shortcrust pastry. For guests I would have made my own, but I had some ready-made sheets in the freezer. These quantities will serve four moderate eaters, or two hungry ones.
Smoked Fish Pie
Square, shallow baking tin and baking paper
250g smoked fish
300 ml milk
a few pieces of butter
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 small red/yellow/orange pepper, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsps finely chopped parsley (preferably flat-leaved)
White sauce/bechamel (see the post on mushrooms for the recipe), made with the milk used for poaching the fish plus a little more milk and/or cream, so it's not too stiff
1 and 1/2 sheets savoury short-crust pastry
1 egg, beaten with a little milk, for glazing
Heat oven to 200C. Cook the onion and pepper in a little butter until soft, and set aside. Gently heat the milk with a little butter in a wide shallow pan and poach the fish for a few minutes, turning once, until the edge flakes easily. Remove fish to a plate, dark skin side up, scrape off the skin (it should come away very easily), flake the fish and remove any bones.
Make the white sauce using the poaching milk. Season, but go easy on the salt, as the fish is already quite salty. Pour the sauce into the poaching pan. Gently stir in the fish, cooked onion and pepper, and parsley, adding a little more milk or cream if necessary to keep it all moist but not runny. Taste for seasoning.
Line tin with baking paper to cover the bottom and come well up the sides - it can stick out at the top a bit. Press 1 square of pastry into the tin so it comes up the sides about 1.5 - 2 cm. Pour in fish mixture.
Cut remaining half sheet of pastry into strips and use these to make a lattice on top of the fish, with the ends of the strips pressed into the pastry sides - it works best done catty-corner across the tins. (As you can see, mine's quite rough - I was hungry!) Brush the whole top of the pie with the egg glaze.
You can also make large or small smoked fish envelopes using squares of puff pastry - I got this idea from a long-lost magazine clipping. Put a neat pile of the fish mixture (not too much) in the middle of the triangle that forms one side of the square, then brush the edges of the square with the egg, fold it over the fish and press the edges together firmly to make a triangle-shaped pasty, and glaze the top. Bake several of these on an oven tray lined with baking paper for about 20 minutes at 210C.