Saturday, 10 March 2012

Fish Pie and Béchamel Sauce.

Fish pie - I don’t know about any one else but this is indulgent comfort food for me. One of those lovely warm comforting dishes that is just great on a cold day. This is my generic fish pic recipe and will vary slightly each time depending on what ingredients I’ve got at the time. It’s actually quite simple, even though I know some people break out in a cold sweat at the mention of words like “Béchamel”.
I’ll describe the Béchamel sauce first then go on to describe how I do the fish pie.
Béchamel is one of Escoffier’s five mother sauces of French cuisine. Start off with a saucepan of milk and add a quartered onion and a few cloves. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Strain out the onion and cloves and keep the milk to one side. In another pan add equal quantities of flour and butter. Mix the flour into the butter as it melts and keep stirring on a low heat for a couple of minutes - you need to cook the flour out but you don’t want it browning. At this point slowly add in the milk whilst continuing to stir the mixture. The ratio of milk to flour and butter will dictate how thick the sauce is - adjust to suit as you prefer. 
Why is this called a mother sauce - whilst it is a sauce in itself, it is also the base for other sauces. Add some grated cheese to your Béchamel and it becomes a Mornay sauce for example.
Fiddly - maybe, but I think it is worth the effort.
Difficult - No!
Right, onto the fish pie. I’m not giving out any specific quantities as they will vary depending on the size of your pie dish and how many people you are cooking for. And, to be honest, I only measured out one thing at the beginning - I three quarter filled the pie dish with milk in order to see how much sauce I needed. That milk then went in a saucepan for the Béchamel.
Next, add some veg to the bottom of the dish. Yes, you read that correctly, vegetables! I like to add a bit of colour and texture and it makes the pie more of a complete meal in itself. Usually this will be some peas and a carrot which has been diced up into ~ ½ cm cubes. On top of this put the fish - put enough to cover the bottom of the dish and vegetables. Here you can use any fish you like. In this case I used some haddock, salmon and smocked pollock and then put the rest of the vegetables on top along with the onion I had strained out of the béchamel (remember to throw the cloves away though - don’t add them to the pie!).
Pour your Béchamel sauce over the top and give the dish a few gentle taps on the work top to make sure the sauce distributes evenly. Finally add mashed potato over the top of the sauce - just try not to make it too “thin” as I did here - bit too much milk added hence the way it looks. Whoops! Still, no one’s perfect and it tasted good.
Now just pop it in the oven. 45 minutes, 180C Fan and enjoy.
Plain flour.
Fish Pie:
Fish (I used salmon, haddock and smoked pollock here but use whatever you like. Cod, prawns also work well)
Veg - your choice but I find peas and a diced carrot work well.
Béchamel sauce
Mashed potato

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