Fish pie

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My mother was insistent that my siblings and I ate plenty of fish in our formative years. Apparently my first solid food was cod roe which she thought helped brain development. I don’t know about this, but I do know that the variety of fish I enjoyed as a child set up my love of fish today.

My favorite of her fish dishes invariably involved something smoked along with lashings of creamy mash potatoes. This fish pie conjures memories of cold winter nights and remains my ultimate comfort food.


  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pint milk
  • 10fl oz double cream
  • 1lb cod fillet or haddock (with the skin if you can get it)
  • 8 oz smoked cod or haddock fillet
  • 4oz butter
  • 1 3⁄4 oz plain flour
  • Flat leaf parsley
  • Fresh nutmeg
  • 2 1⁄2 lb potatoes
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  • 2 large pans
  • 1 small pan
  • ovenproof dish
  • knife
  • masher


  1. Slice the onion into thick slices. If you like, insert the two cloves into the onion.
  2. Place the onions in a large pan with the bay leaf, the milk and the cream. Add the fish. Just at the point at which the liquor starts to boil, turn the heat down and simmer for around 8 minutes.
  3. Carefully take the fish out of the pan and let it sit on a plate. Let it cool for a while, and then break it up making sure you remove any skin and bones. Arrange it to cover the base of an ovenproof dish.
  4. Melt 2oz of butter in a pan. Add the flour to it and cook through for around a minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir into the mixture the liquor in which you cooked the fish (making sure you pass it through a sieve first). Return to the heat and bring to a boil stirring all the time. Then simmer the sauce for around 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Remove the sauce from the heat, sitr in the parsley (about a cup or so). Grate some fresh nutmeg into the sauce and season. Then pour it over the fish. Leave it to cool and then refrigerate for an hour or so.
  6. Make the mash. Boil peeled potatoes for about 20 minutes, strain and mash. Add 2oz of butter (or more if you are feeling indulgent), season and add either some milk or cream. (You can hold back some of the liquor for extra flavor for this.)
  7. Set the oven 400°F. Spread the mash over the fish and bake for around 40 minutes.

What you should know

If you can’t get hold of cod or haddock, you can use a any white fish you like. It is also not essential to include a smoked fish but it really enhances the flavour. I don’t like the synthetically dyed smoked fish. If you can get hold of fish from a decent smoker then so much the better.

Re: Fish pie

David, The fish you were served was soft herring roe, (not cod roe) thought to be the perfect food for infants, not only for their brains, but for the whole being. I used to lay the roes on a plate resting on a pan of boiling waters. I put butter on the plate and - yes, pepper - because in those days we wanted to stimulate your baby palates. The roes can be served to quite young babies. They are easily digested and full of good things. Adults seems to find herring roes revolting, but I still like them. Maybe I have internalised my own mother’s belief in their efficacy. How many people serve this mini-feast to their little ones? Sheila

Re: Fish pie

Mum, I guess they are not that great for the memory! Thanks for correcting me. I will make this for Lucy (who will enjoy pounding it to oblivion in her high chair before smearing it on her cheeks and eventually finding her mouth).

Re: Fish pie

I have propagated cuttings from the bay tree in my garden. They have taken and are doing well. I am also trying my hand with rosemary. The bay trees should be ready for passing on in two years. Any followers of GreatGrub who are in the London (UK) area two years from now can pop in and pick up a mature bay tree for free.

Re: Fish pie