Recipe: Proper Fish Pies
I’ve been watching one of my favorite cooking shows of all time recently, Two Fat Ladies. It was a masterful British show from the 90′s that is an absolute riot. Not only are they hilarious, but they cook some tasty looking treats. They use anchovies in nearly everything, and fill their sentence structure with constant British slang and catch phrases. Their methods and banter were the inspiration for this recipe.
You may think that a savory fish pie sounds a bit off, but it is surprisingly delicious. I didn’t have any canned anchovies on hand, so I used their milder cousin, the sardine, instead. You could use either, as I’m confident both would be delicious. But if you’re more into milder tasting fish, stick with the sardines. They blend perfectly with the spinach, shallot, capers, and herbs. An extra buttery crispy crust holds it all together, and a cracked egg on top brings the whole thing together. I challenge you to make this dish and to send me a comment if you liked it or not. The Bald Gourmet loved it.
What You Will Need to Make Proper Fish Pies
4 cups spinach
1 large shallot, chopped (roughly 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large tomato, sliced, or some canned tomatoes which have been thoroughly drained
Capers, roughly 4 teaspoons
Fresh tarragon, chopped, roughly 4 teaspoons
Chives, chopped, roughly 1 tablespoon
1 can sardines packed in oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan (or other hard cheese) for garnish
Pastry dough (2 cups flour, 1 cup cold butter, 1/2 cup cold milk, 2 large pinches of salt)
How to Make Proper Fish Pies
Start by making your pastry dough. Follow the steps outlined in How to Make Perfect Pie Crust, using cold milk instead of the water. The milk adds an extra savory element and makes for a crispier crust.
Once your dough is made and chilling in the refrigerator, move on to the fillings.
Start by heating the olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the shallots and cook over medium-high heat until starting to brown. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper, cover, and remove from heat. Keep the spinach covered as you prep your other ingredients and wait for the pastry dough to finish chilling. The idea here is that the spinach will cook from the residual heat, and will then cool as you wait for the dough.
Open your sardines/anchovies and drain the oil. If not filleted, gently lift the sardines from the tin, split down the gut with a fork or knife, and gently open them up to get two little fillets. Remove the backbone and discard. Set sardines aside on a plate.
Chop your herbs and set aside. Slice your tomatoes (or drain them if using canned), and set aside.
Now that your pastry dough is chilled, remove from refrigerator, dust a work surface with flour, split dough into fourths, and roll out. Each crust should be about 8-10 inches in diameter and about 1/8th inch thick. Place two rolled out crusts on a sheet pan which has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, repeating on a second sheet pan.
How to Assemble Proper British Fish Pies
Now you’re ready for the fillings. Place 1/4 of the spinach into the middle of each pastry crust, flattening into a center circle. Top the spinach with a tomato slice (or small handful of drained canned tomatoes). Spoon a teaspoon of capers over the fillets on each pie. Then add two sardines fillets (one whole fish) to each pie, then top each with a teaspoon of the tarragon.
Free Form Savory Fish Pies Galette Style
Now for the tricky part. You need to top each pile of fillings with a cracked whole egg. You could just whisk the eggs up, but the presentation of a whole egg yolk in the center of the pie is striking and well worth the effort. I found that if you just crack the egg on the fillings at this point, it will just run all over the place and make an awful mess when you go to fold up the crust. I found the most successful method was to fold up the crust loosely (fold the crust over itself every inch or so, making uniform folds all around the pie. I detail this process fairly well in Elderberry Crostata with Lemon), gently unfold it a bit, and then cracking the egg in the center. You can then season the egg with salt and pepper, sprinkle with a 1/4 of the chives, and then press the folds down more firmly. However you do it, just try to keep the egg white inside the pie without breaking the yolk. But if you do break the yolk, bake it anyway. It’s still just as delicious.
Bake Fish Pies in a Convection Oven
Brush the pie crusts with an egg wash or some milk so that they get a nice sheen on them as they bake. This is optional though, and I didn’t do it on the ones photographed in this post.
Bake the pies in a convection oven at 375° for 20 minutes. If you don’t have a convection oven, bake at 400° for about 30 minutes, or until the crusts are baked through (you’ll need to rotate your pans half way through without a convection so that they cook evenly).
Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over each pie while hot.
Serve hot for dinner/lunch, or cold for a picnic treasure.
Recipe by Jothan Yeager, 4/2012
The Bald Gourmet creates a British inspired Proper Fish Pie recipe.