Whitby Fish Pie (of sorts)
Even though I couldn’t wait to get stuck into my new book, Sweet, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, we still had Christmas cake and the remnants of a Christmas pudding to get through before I could, in all conscience, make something remotely cake-like. To save myself and the family from an ever-expanding waistline, I decided to try a fish pie. I went with the Whitby fish pie from Paul Hollywood’s British Baking.
There’s an extract of the recipe online at goodtoknow.co.uk. Well, when I say I went with Whitby fish pie, I used completely different fish to that required by the recipe, so if Whitby fish pie is a “thing”, then the pie I made wasn’t it.
The tricky part of this recipe would be the topping. All the fish pies I’ve made before have been topped with mash. This one was topped with a pastry lattice. Pastry by itself, fine, that I can handle, but a lattice? The Bake Off contestants had to tackle one this year when they made the rum nicky for one of the technical challenges. It looked difficult.
As I said, the pastry was easy. I mixed plan flour and salt and used my trusty pastry blender to rub in cold, diced butter. Here’s the pastry blender,
and here’s where you can get your own at Amazon
Once the mixture had reached breadcrumb stage, I added an egg which I’d mixed with some cold water and made a dough. I had to add a bit more water than the recommended tablespoon, which is usual for me. As always, I was a bit unsure about whether I’d added too much. Anyway, I wrapped the pastry in clingfilm and put it into the fridge.
For the filling, I put milk, an onion and a bay leaf into a pan and brought it to the boil. The onion was supposed to be studded with cloves, but, since I’m the only one of the family who can stand them, I left them out. Once the milk started to boil, I turned off the heat and left it for half and hour. Then I strained it into a jug.
I melted butter in a pan and stirred in an equal amount of flour. I cooked the flour for a couple of minutes, and then slowly added the milk, stirring as I went. Now, the recipe called for spinach. One of Matthew’s friends was staying for tea, and I was making a pasta bake-type thing for them that used the same sauce. He said he hated spinach, so I used broccoli instead. I popped some frozen broccoli into the pan, some parsley and salt and pepper and cooked them with the sauce. I gave it seven minutes because this was how long I needed to cook the broccoli to make sure it had defrosted.
This is where the recipe really went right out of the window. I was supposed to use equal amounts of haddock and smoked haddock. We had some salmon in the freezer left over from Christmas so I used that, and the fishmonger didn’t have any haddock. He recommended coley, so I went with that. I also used some cooked, peeled prawns. These were in the recipe.
I cut the fish into bite-sized pieces, oh and I did check them for bones, I was feeding children after all, and one of them wasn’t my own. The fish went into two dishes, one for the pie and the other for the pasta bake (the pasta bake didn’t get any prawns). I poured the sauce over the top and gave everything a bit of a mix.
So, now for the dreaded lattice. I rolled out my pastry until it would fit over my pie dish and I cut it into 1cm strips. Paul Hollywood suggested that 12-14 strips would be enough. When I had enough strips, I laid them onto some baking paper and weaved a lattice.
I dampened the rim of my dish and pressed a strip of pastry onto it (well, I couldn’t manage it all in one strip, so I used quite a few). I wasn’t really sure what the right way to go about this step was. The recipe steps said to dampen the dish, the detailed instructions on making the lattice said dampen the pastry. Perhaps dampening the pastry may have worked better. It was pretty tricky trying to get my pastry to stick on the damp dish. I just about managed it in the end.
The next step sounds simple, “invert the lattice from the parchment onto the dish. Press the ends of the strips onto the pastry rim and trim the edges.” OK, so I picked up the parchment with the lattice on it. All of the strips slid together. I tried again. They slipped off. I picked them up, smoothed them out and put them back on the paper. Eventually, I managed to keep the strips on the paper. I inverted them onto the top of the pie dish. Here’s what happened.
I eventually managed to get the pastry onto the top of the pie. I pressed the ends of the strips down onto the pastry that was around the rim. Some of them fell into the pie. I fished them out. I gave the straggly ends a bit of a trim, brushed the top with egg and baked the pie in the oven at 180° fan for half an hour.
Here’s what I ended up with.
My lattice wasn’t great, but at least the pie looked edible.
Was it Worth It?
Well, the lattice definitely wasn’t. It was way too much work. Too much cutting, and too much weaving, and I haven’t even started on the pain of trying to get it onto the top of the pie. I suppose I can see the logic in having a lattice crust. Usually, fish pies are covered in potato, maybe covering a fish pie completely in pastry would look a bit odd and perhaps, you’d end up with too much pastry. I don’t know, but, if I ever make this again, it will definitely not have a lattice.
As to the taste, it was a good fish pie. No one noticed the lack of cloves, and the substitution of broccoli for spinach worked, as did the alternative fish. The prawns weren’t great. I’m not sure why the recipe said that you should use cooked prawns. Surely they’d go rubbery once they went into the oven – which is exactly what happened.
The children, who didn’t have the prawns but did have cheese in their pasta bake, seemed to like it and that’s always a plus.
All in all, I’d say the fish pie was a success, and I’d certainly make one again. No prawns and no lattice next time.