Fish pie is a potato topped fish bake that’s a British comfort food classic. Filled with fish and shrimp, topped with soft potatoes with a gentle crust. Easy to make, easy to enjoy.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned some of the common food terms used in the US and UK that can get very confusing. Pie is definitely one of them. Generally, there is some agreement that a pie involves a pastry crust in both countries, but the UK normally takes that to mean at least over the top. In the US, not so much – it can be just under as in a pumpkin pie (which would be a tart in the UK).
Then the UK confuses things with some of the most popular pies having no pastry at all, like shepherd’s pie, topped with potato. This fish pie is like the fish equivalent of shepherd’s pie and is something many of us Brits associate with childhood. It’s classic comfort food, perfect for winter.
What is fish pie?
Fish pie is essentially fish in a mild sauce with mashed potato on top, baked to give it a slight crisp. As with many people from the UK, I have memories of my mum making fish pie now and then for dinner when I was young. In fact, she made it when she came to visit one time to give me a break from cooking (I think when one of the kids was very young at the time so I needed it!).
Despite that, fish pie is not something I ever made myself until I saw this month’s Fish Friday Foodies’ theme: fish in a dish. For me, it was the obvious choice.
Exactly what goes in fish pie can vary. Most versions use a white fish, or maybe salmon, and you’ll sometimes see smoked fish such as smoked haddock in there too. Shrimp/prawns are a common addition and there can be vegetables such as spinach added as well. The sauce is often a simple white sauce made with the milk used to poach the fish. Some versions have wine in there, to give a bit more flavor, sometimes mixed with stock.
How it’s made
I have gone with a bit of a mix of the common elements by using haddock, shrimp/prawns and a sauce made with the milk from poaching and some wine. I have added some spinach and dill for flavor as well. You poach the fish (and shrimp if using raw) in the milk, then use the milk to make a simple sauce. Then pour the sauce over the fish and spinach, top with some mashed potatoes and bake until the top starts to crisp. Between the poaching and then baking it does take a little more time than some dishes but it’s still not too long and it’s all easy to do.
Fish pie is classic British cold-weather comfort food. The mix of fish, a mild creamy sauce and mashed potatoes is just the sort of thing for a cold day. While it brings back childhood memories for many Brits, it’s something anyone can enjoy so do give it a try.
A comforting dish that's a British classic.
- 29 oz potatoes 825g, 1lb 13oz
- 18 oz haddock 500g, 1lb 2oz, or other similar white fish in chunks
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 8 oz shrimp 240g prawns
- 2 oz spinach 60g
- 2 tbsp butter , divided
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 tsp dill
Boil potatoes until tender, mash and add 1tbsp butter and 1/4cup/60ml of milk.
Preheat oven to 375F/190C.
Poach haddock in the wine and 1 1/4c milk over a medium-low heat for around 10-15min until cooked through (mine didn't even get to simmer). Don't let it get above a simmer. Add the shrimp towards end if not already cooked. Remove fish from milk mixture.
Melt 1tbsp butter, add flour and cook until nutty, gradually add milk-wine mix from poaching to make sauce, add in dill and wilt in spinach.
Put flaked fish and shrimp in baking dish, pour over sauce, top with mashed potatoes. Bake approx 30min until starting to brown.
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