Recipe: Posh fish pie and mushy peas

Fish pie topped with a breadcrumb and parmesan crumble.
Fish pie topped with a breadcrumb and parmesan crumble.

Today I offer you pea, pie and parmesan, and you are welcome to add pud. The peas are mushy, and the pie is without pastry. It is a modern interpretation of my mother's fish pie, which she was rather famous for in her neighbourhood.

In fact, recently I was given a handwritten (in her writing) rendition of "Betty's Posh Fish Pie''. It has shrimps in it as well as fish, lots of parsley and a dash or two of dry sherry, with breadcrumbs on top. And because my pie is so much posher than my mother's, I call the breadcrumb topping "crumble''.

My pie is designed to be "reheated", a word which may soon be extinguished from the vernacular.  It carries connotations of yesterday's leftovers and poor food handling. It suggests the cook is too lazy to cook from fresh.

New terminology has been created to avoid the undertones. No ''reheating'' these days for the hostess with the mostest, or host with the most. They ping food in eye-level microwaves, or follow many a good restaurant and ''twice cook''. It sounds so much better, don't you think?


Makes eight to 10 150ml ramekins

These small ramekins of very tasty fish pie can be stored in the fridge for up to three days, and make a delicious little lunch or dinner. For a ''man-sized'' meal, you can divide the mixture into four 300ml to 350ml ramekins.  Accompany with steamed spinach or Jamie's Mushy Peas.

500g-600g snapper fillets
330ml (1 1/3 cups) milk
20g (2 Tbsp) butter
40g (1-2) shallots
40g (1 stalk) celery, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
20g (3 Tbsp) flour
1 spring onion (white part and some of the green), thinly sliced on the angle
2 tsp chopped dill
1 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
12g (1 Tbsp + 1 tsp) capers, rinsedntsG and nte, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan Crumble

To precook the snapper:

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.  Place the fillets in an ovenproof dish so they fit neatly.  Pour milk over snapper (it needs to cover the fillets) and cover with aluminium foil.  Place in oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until the snapper is tender.

As soon as possible, remove snapper from milk.  Reserve milk for sauce.  Cool snapper and flake into small pieces.

To make sauce for pies:

Place butter in a pot set over a low heat.  Melt butter and add shallots and celery.  Cook for  four to five minutes or until shallots are soft and celery is tender.

Add flour.  Stir constantly for two to three minutes or until flour smells nutty.

Take 250ml (1 cup) from reserved milk measure and slowly pour into butter/flour mixture, stirring between each addition.

Leave sauce to simmer, preferably on a simmer mat, for five to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add spring onion, dill, lemon zest, capers, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.

To assemble pies: 

Divide cooked snapper evenly into oven-to-table ramekins.

Divide sauce into ramekins and spread over top of snapper.  Sprinkle sauce with parmesan crumble.  Proceed to next step or refrigerate for up to three days.

To serve:

Preheat oven to 170C.

Place pies in oven and heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown on top and hot in centre.


Makes 70g

40g (1/4 cup) fresh breadcrumbs
15g (1/4 cup) finely grated parmesan
15g (1 1/2 Tbsp) butter, melted

Place breadcrumbs, parmesan and melted butter into a small bowl.

Toss together until breadcrumbs are moist.

Use immediately or store in refrigerator for up to five days or in freezer for up to three months.


Yields 500g or serves 8

This is also really good to serve with lamb.

400g frozen green peas
1/4 tsp salt
250ml (1 cup) chicken stock liquid
100ml (1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp) cream
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
25g (2 1/2 Tbsp) butter, diced
3/4 tsp flaky sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place a saucepan of water on a high heat and bring to boil.  Add peas and first measure  of salt.

As soon as the water comes back to the boil, drain peas into a sieve. Run cold water over them until they are cold.

Gently shake to remove any remaining water.  Place peas back into empty saucepan.

Pour chicken stock and cream into a small pot set over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer liquids until they reduce by half. Add lemon zest, butter, salt, pepper and stock mixture to peas.  Using a potato masher, mash peas to a rough-textured consistency.  Taste for seasoning.

Reheat - a microwave works well - to serve warm or hot. 

The Dominion Post