Close up of Fish Pie in white baking dish showing creamy filling with fish flakes
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4.93 from 27 votes

Fish Pie

Recipe VIDEO above. A grand Fish Pie, fit for a king yet economical to make! Chunks of fish flakes smothered in a creamy white sauce, topped with mashed potato then baked until golden. Use a combination of both smoked and raw unsmoked fish for optimum flavour and texture. Fresh tarragon is also optional - it gives an extra edge to the flavour that people can't quite put their finger on! 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Mains
Cuisine: British, Western
Keyword: Fish pie, Fisherman's Pie
Servings: 6 - 8 people
Calories: 365kcal
Author: Nagi

Ingredients

Fish:

  • 400 g / 14 oz smoked fish of choice (Note 1)
  • 400 g / 14 oz raw unsmoked fish of choice , I used Perch (Note 2)
  • 3 cups / 750 ml milk , low fat or full fat
  • 1 brown onion , quartered (Note 3)
  • 4 cloves , optional (Note 4)

White Sauce:

  • 50 g / 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1/2 small onion , finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot , finely chopped
  • 1 small celery stick , finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup / 50g plain flour (all purpose flour, Note 11 for GF)
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon , finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp parsley , finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Potato Topping:

  • 750 g / 1.5 lb floury potatoes , peeled and cut into 2.5cm / 1" pieces (Note 5)
  • 30 g / 2 tbsp+ unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup / 125 ml milk, any fat %

Pie:

  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 hard boiled eggs , quartered (optional) (Note 6)
  • 30 g / 2 tbsp butter , melted
  • 1/4 cup / 15g grated parmesan cheese , optional
  • Finely chopped parsley , for garnish (optional)

Instructions

Fish:

  • Push a clove into the skin of each onion. Place in a pot or large skillet, add milk, turn stove onto medium high heat.
  • When milk is barely simmering, add fish - don't worry if it's not entirely covered, it can be turned / moved around.
  • Poach fish for 7 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer fish straight into a medium baking dish (Note 8).
  • Flake into chunks using forks. Remove bones if you see any.
  • Use slotted spoon to remove onion and cloves from milk, discard. RESERVE milk.
  • Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Boil water for potatoes.

Sauce:

  • Melt butter in a large, deep skillet or pot over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Then add celery and carrot, cook for 5 minutes until carrot is soft.
  • Turn heat down to medium low. Add flour, mix in - it will look gluey.
  • Add half the milk and quickly start mixing. Once incorporated, the mixture will thicken quickly. Add remaining milk and stir. (Video helpful here)
  • Turn heat up to medium and keep stirring until the mixture thickens to the consistency of honey - about 3 minutes. (Note 7)
  • Take it off the heat, stir through tarragon and parsley. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Pie:

  • Scatter top of flaked fish with peas, then pour over the Sauce. GENTLY stir through (don't want fish to turn into mush!).*
  • Smooth top, then nestle egg in all over the pie.

Mashed Potato:

  • Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add potatoes and cook for 15 minutes or until soft. (Do this while making the Sauce).
  • Drain potato, add butter, milk, salt and pepper. Mash until creamy - add more milk if required.
  • Immediately dollop then spread onto pie (cold mash = hard to spread).
  • Use fork to draw squiggles on surface (rough surface = better golden bits).

Bake Pie:

  • Drizzle surface with melted butter, sprinkle with parmesan.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until top is deep golden.
  • Stand for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with parsley if desired. See notes for reheating and make ahead.

Notes

* I didn't stir Sauce through the fish in the video, but I should have done. It disperses better.
1. I use smoked cod which is commonly found at fish shops and supermarkets in Australia and is good value ($10/kg at Woolies). Any smoked fish will be great - it really adds an element of extra flavour to the sauce and the dish as a whole.
If you can't find smoked fish, what I would do is just use all normal fish (or prawns/shrimp! Use about 500g/1 lb small ones or chop large ones instead of smoked fish) and add 1/2 cup of grated parmesan into the sauce (stir it through at the end). That will add an extra flavour edge to the sauce to make up for not having smoked fish.
2. You can really use any kind of fish that can be flaked into large-fish chunks. Most common fish is suitable for this, including salmon, perch, tilapia, basa, barramundi, snapper, cod, monk fish, ocean trout. Tuna and swordfish are not suitable because they tend to go dry, and flounder is a bit too delicate and thin. But other than those fish, go nuts!
3. Just trim a bit of the onion end so when you quarter it, it holds together.
4. Studding the onion with cloves is optional, it's quite a traditional British way to make the poaching liquid. You can barely taste the cloves, it's more a subtle fragrance.
5. Use any floury potatoes suitable for mashing. I use the dirt brushed potatoes (Sebago), if you're in America, Russet is ideal.
6. Boiled egg is optional but again, is traditional. Bring a saucepan of water to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Gently lower eggs into the water using a slotted spoon. Cook at gentle simmer (adjust heat as required) for 7 minutes. Transfer eggs into a bowl of cold water. Leave to cool, then peel under running water.
7. The Sauce needs to be fairly thick as it won't thicken in the oven and what you don't want when you cut into the pie is runny sauce.
8. My dish is 30 x 19 x 6 cm / 12 x 8 x 2.5". Anything around this size will work, including an oven proof skillet around 28cm / 11" wide.
9. WORKFLOW: There's a few components to this pie! This is the workflow I use: Poach the fish first and while it's poaching, chop all the veggies and prep the other ingredients. Once the fish is flaked, boil the water for the potatoes and get started on the Sauce. Cook the potatoes while finishing the Sauce. Pour Sauce over pie, then set aside while mashing the potato. Top pie then bake!
10. MAKE AHEAD: If making the whole thing ahead, only let the Sauce thicken to the stage where it's like maple syrup rather than honey (honey is thicker than maple). Then assemble the pie but don't bake it. Cover with plenty of cling wrap and refrigerate. Then bake on the day of for around 45 minutes at 180C/350F or until surface is deep golden.
Leftovers reheat pretty well, but I do find that the filling is not quite as saucy as I'd like but that's a problem inherent with all pies like this because typically, if the sauce of the filling is perfect thickness when made fresh, then it tends to thicken when left in the fridge.
If you're really determined to have great leftovers (and honestly, the Filling flavour gets better overnight), then remove the potato topping (it will lift easily). Drizzle over milk or cream and gently mix through as best you can until it's saucy. Put potato top back on, spray with oil then bake to make the top crunchy again, or even microwave it! As it heats, the milk/cream you added into the Filling melds in with the Sauce. This is how I've been having leftover Fish Pie this week. :)
11. GLUTEN FREE: Skip the flour. Mix 1/4 of the poaching milk with 1/4 cup of cornflour / cornstarch until lump free. Add remaining milk into pan then the cornflour mixture. Stir and as it heats, sauce will thicken, make it the same thickness per video (honey thickness). Proceed with recipe.
12. Nutrition per serving, assuming 8 servings.

Nutrition

Serving: 323g | Calories: 365kcal