During his TV series In Search of Perfection Heston Blumenthal crafts his perfect fish pie. I love a good fish pie, and I’m sure this one is superb although as with many of his recipes it requires oddities, not limited to oyster juice (?), hay-smoked haddock and agar-agar powder. I don’t quite fancy this level of faff, but recall that during the TV programme the potato topping he made sent him quite giddy. His face said “turn that camera off and I will eat the whole bowl of this right now”, so I thought I’d lift the mash on to a more basic fish pie recipe. I turned to Marcus Wareing’s, as featured in a Guardian round-up of student recipes.
The fish filling was smooth and comforting with lovely smoked haddock and the refreshing bite of peas. But the mash was something else. Almost milkshake-smooth with a lovely savoury tang – it comes highly recommended. It’s nowhere near as complex as some of his recipes, so give Heston Blumenthal’s potato purée a whirl.
Fish pie (makes 4 pies):
For the pie filling:
400g smoked haddock
2 bay leaves
Sprig of thyme
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
50g frozen peas
For the potato purée:
250g Charlotte potatoes, peeled and cut into 5cm slices
75g unsalted butter, cubed
2 egg yolks
40g Comté cheese, grated
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 dessert spoon creamed horseradish
- To make the filling, bring half the milk with bay and thyme to a gentle simmer. Add the haddock and poach gently until cooked through, about 6 minutes. Put the fish to one side and discard the milk.
- Melt the butter into a saucepan and add the flour. Use a wooden spoon and beat into paste. Allow to cook for a minute or two and gradually add the rest of the milk until it forms a lovely smooth sauce. If it’s not looking great, turn up the heat and go mad with a whisk. Determination will pull it together. Continue to stir for another few minutes to thicken. Season and grate over a few strokes of nutmeg.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the peas. Flake the haddock in (good chance to get rid of the bones here). Pour into the dishes you will eventually cook them in and leave to cool – this will let the mash sit on top a little happier.
- For the mash, rinse the potato slices in plenty of cold water to remove excess starch. Boil in 80°C simmering water for 30 minutes, then drain and cool the slices under cold water. Put into boiling water, salted this time and simmer for 15 minutes until completely soft. This two-stage process ensures it is cooked completely through and avoids the possibility of a grainy purée.
- Drain the potatoes again, pop them back in the pan and let them dry thoroughly by shaking over a low heat. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Place the butter in a bowl. Pop a fine sieve over the top and using a spatula force the potato through the sieve, then fold through the butter.
- Simmer the milk in a pan and incorporate the buttery potatoes. Add the remaining ingredients over this low heat and check for seasoning.
- Pipe the mash over the top of the pie and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the potato is lightly browned on top.