London Shell Co.
“Go to your fishmonger and pick up a nice mix of fish. Ask what’s really good that day and what’s at a good price – I like some kind of white fish, cod or pollock, some smoked haddock, a bit of trout or salmon, maybe a few prawns. Put a few tinned anchovies in there, too. If you want something a bit different, a tablespoon of curry powder into the mix will go well. The mash is important. Use red skin potatoes. The potatoes need to be roasted whole instead of boiling so they don’t absorb too much water, then scooped out of the skin and passed through a fine sieve or a potato ricer. Then add egg yolk and butter. For 500g of potato, you’ll need around four yolks and 80g of butter, then add salt to taste. The egg will get you a super crispy top and rich creamy potato underneath. I like to brush it with some clarified butter after it comes out the oven and top it with picked thyme leaves.”
Cookbook Author & Chef
“The best fish pies don’t start with a rigid set of ingredients, but with a conversation with the fishmonger about what is good, fresh and available. Aim for a mix of three or four fish. No less than a third should be something smoked – ideally undyed smoked haddock. Then some chunky white fish – perhaps cod, pollack, coley or hake. And consider adding prawns or salmon too. Buy your fish fillets with the skin on and you’ll be able to enjoy crisped fish crackling: a fabulous cook’s perk, pre-meal bite, or to have with the pie. To make the crisped fish crackling, simmer the skins in boiling water for 3 minutes, then lift out and leave to thoroughly dry on kitchen paper or a clean tea towel. Use a spoon to gently remove any small bits of fish flesh on the skin. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat, lay the skins in the pan and let them bubble up and crisp. Turn them over and, when fully crisped, lift out and scatter over lots of salt.”
The Grill at The Dorchester
“The key to making a delicious fish pie is to lightly poach the fish in milk at around 70°C, until it’s almost cooked. Use that milk to make your bechamel sauce and throw in dill, chives and – most importantly – a generous amount of wholegrain mustard. It makes it super delicious. Don’t add too much milk to your mash – instead add egg yolk and a splash of cream.”
"Fish pie is a lovely, comforting meal that can be made easily for two or 200 guests. The best combination of fish is equal quantities of cod, smoked haddock and salmon. Stick to this ratio, otherwise one flavour will dominate. Some people use lobster, prawns or scallops but I think that’s just a waste because the flavour gets lost. I always add the classic elements of a tartare sauce to my fish pie sauce; shallots, gherkins, capers and fresh chopped herbs. Oh, and don’t forget the pie needs to be topped with creamy mashed potato and some halved boiled eggs, which should be set but still gooey (six minutes just about does it for the boiling)."
TV Cook & Chef
“Making fish pie is an event and, because of this, it requires lots of fine ingredients. It’s a dish I would spoil my family with or have in the winter with a handful of mates. I prefer to use smoked fish in my pie because it adds real depth and body to the dish. I would normally use smoked haddock because it’s British and firm, but sometimes I add salmon and cod. The sauce to fish ratio is imperative: make sure each piece of fish is engulfed in the sauce. Let it chill and top with mashed potato – you want around a ratio of about two-thirds base to a third mash. The mash needs to be buttery, and it needs to be covered in both cheddar cheese and parmesan before popping in the oven to get crisp and golden.”
“When making the base of the fish pie, I’d always recommend making your own stock from the fish bones as it really enhances the flavour. Get your fish bones and fry them in a pan with a glug of olive oil until golden brown. While doing this, fry off some celery, garlic, fennel and shallots. Once soft, add 200ml of white wine along with the bones and top with 1.5 litres of water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes until reduced by half. Using this fish stock to make the bechamel base for your pie will give it a delicious deep, roasted fish flavour.”
"Make sure you make the white sauce or bechamel thicker than normal, as you will always get some excess moisture coming out of the fish. I like to add finely chopped shallots to the base of the sauce as well as white wine, then use 50:50 fish stock and milk, finished with a little cream. I only add chopped parsley to the sauce, as any other herb is too strong, then add grated boiled egg along with a few pieces of cooked leek and peas. I always part-cook the fish in the sauce at a gentle simmer, as you can judge the cooking better. Smaller pieces of cut fish or pre-cooked things like mussels can then be added at the last minute to warm through. Then you just have to place in the pie dish and pipe on the mashed potato using a piping bag with a starred nozzle. I then egg-wash the top using just yolks, gratinate with a parsley crumb made from brioche, parsley, parmesan and cheddar, and bake for 12 minutes.”
The Unruly Pig
“Firstly, only use very lightly smoked, artisan haddock to impart subtlety and not a slug of smoky flavour to the pie. Then poach the haddock in milk and make a bechamel sauce with the same milk. Secondly – a guilty pleasure when I am cooking at home – I use a mixture of parmesan, gruyere and emmental for the topping. Then I add just a few crushed salt-and-vinegar crisps to the cheese mixture before grilling. It’s a game changer.”
“I like to make a simple and mega-fast fish pie. Place four eggs in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove and place straight into iced water. Once cool, peel and quarter. To make the sauce, combine 250ml of crème fraiche with a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a large handful of thawed frozen peas and some finely sliced spring onion. Pour this mixture into a pie dish along with flaked, cooked fish and distribute the eggs evenly. Add chopped parsley and a few grinds of black pepper. Spread mash over the top and score with a fork, then sprinkle liberally with cheddar cheese. Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Serve with greens.”
Chef & Actress
“A great alternative to mash is using individual little pastry discs which can be cut into all sorts of shapes and cooked separately to the pie mix – it means they don’t get soggy from the sauce. They could be cut into star shapes, circles, initials – you name it, they look great and occasion ready. I also recommend using double cream to create a thicker and richer sauce.”
“The key to any dish is a great sauce. When making fish pie at home, I always steam off a few mussels in Dorset cider and return the remaining cooking juices into a sauce made from flour, butter, fish or chicken stock, milk and double cream infused with a small onion studded with a couple of cloves and a bay leaf. Finish your sauce with a little grated nutmeg, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Good-quality, non-dyed smoked haddock or cod work best alongside good, structured fish such as halibut, salmon and cod. Prawns and queen scallops will add a touch of luxury.”
“Fish pie is a comforting and cosy staple, but it can be fun to add a kick to your dish from time to time. My favourite way to do this is to simmer the fish in tomato stock and chorizo, adding a pinch of saffron to bring a burst of flavour. Simply cook the mixture in a pan first then add it to an ovenproof dish to top it up with potatoes – this will help the mixture to fully absorb the seasoning. My topping hack is to break up your potatoes roughly until lightly crushed rather than mashed. This will add crispiness to the top of your pie.”
“Don’t load your mash with too much milk and butter – you’re not making pomme purée. You want it to be firm enough to feel like a separate and distinct layer of topping that needs to be broken through to get to the luxurious filling beneath. Also, make sure you choose the right potato. You want a floury variety for the optimum fluffy mash – Sorrento, Maris Piper, Cosmos or King Edward. If you do want to add some veg to the filling, leeks are perfect at this time of year. They are mellower and quicker to soften than an onion and add a wholesome flash of green. Spinach pairs well with fish too, but can release a little too much water into the mix as it cooks; it is often best wilted, cooled, squeezed and finely chopped before adding to the sauce to avoid this issue. It divides opinion, but I’m a strong advocate for a little boiled egg in a fish pie – but only if it has discernible amounts of smoked fish in the mix. It adds rich echoes of kedgeree or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Boil 2-3 eggs then slice or grate them over the filling before you top with the mash.”
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