Salmon and Leek Pie

My lovely wife insisted that I blog this recipe. When I first told her what we were having for dinner she wasn’t convinced, it only took one mouthful to change her mind. “This is the definitive fish pie”, she declared.

Everybody swooned over it, and reheated the following day it was almost as good. The best thing about it? Just look at the meagre list of ingredients. This is a fish pie that has its simplicity as its strength, and it is incredibly easy to make. 

You can top this with puff pastry if you prefer, but there’s just something about mash…

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RECIPE serves 6

500g salmon fillet

1 pint of milk (I use semi-skimmed, use what you prefer)

55g unsalted butter

40g plain flour

1 large leek, washed, halved and cut into 1cm slices

a small bunch of parsley, chopped

a quantity of dry-mashed potato (see method)

freshly ground black pepper

Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, finely grated

olive oil


METHOD

Heat your oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ gas 6.

Place the salmon, skin-side uppermost, in an ovenproof dish. Pour over the milk, cover with some foil and bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes until the fish is only just cooked and is starting to flake.

Remove the fish from the milk using a slotted spoon and set aside. Remove the skin from the fish, it should easily peel off. Retain the milk for use later. When the fish is cool enough to handle, break it into largish chunks – it will break up further when you assemble the pie.

Meanwhile, prepare your mashed potato: I have not specified an amount of mash here, people like different quantities of mash on a pie like this, so use your own judgement. I prefer to steam potatoes for mash, rather than boil them; it keeps them a little dryer and takes about the same length of time. When you come to mash, allow yourself a little milk to slacken the mash if you need to, but no butter. This needs to be a firm, dry mash so it holds peaks on the top that will char, and will soak up the juice from the pie underneath. When you have made your mash, set it aside for now.

Now make the sauce: melt the butter in a large pan over a medium heat, then gradually add the flour whilst whisking constantly. Gently cook the resulting paste until it bubbles and has the first hint of brown, then remove from the heat and begin to add the milk.

Add the milk a little at a time to begin with, whisking all the time. As you add the milk it will be absorbed into the paste, which will become looser the more milk that you add. Return the pan to a gentle heat after adding around a quarter of the milk. When you have added around half of the milk, it has all been absorbed and there are no lumps in it, you can add the rest of the milk all together. Turn the heat up, keep whisking often, and bring the sauce to the boil. As it gets hotter, stir more frequently. Just as it starts to boil, drop the heat to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes, whisking often. Your aim is a smooth, glossy sauce.

After two minutes simmering, take the sauce off the heat and allow to stand whilst you bring everything together.

The leeks need to be steamed for a couple of minutes, just to soften them. This is an easy task that you can fit in while working on the other elements.

To assemble the pie, add the parsley and leeks to the sauce, and stir well. Then add the salmon and stir thoroughly, breaking the larger chunks down. Now carefully check and correct the seasoning.

Transfer everything to a 3-pint ovenproof dish, then add your mash over the top. It is best to work from the edges, working all the way round, then gradually working your way in to the centre using the outer layer of mash as a support – this is why you need dry mash. Fluff the top up into peaks and swirls using a fork, then give the entire surface a generous grinding of black pepper. Now grate a fine layer of Pecorino (preferred) or Parmesan over the top, and drizzle lightly with a little olive oil.

Bake for around 30 minutes until the top is nicely browned and charred in places, and the pie is piping hot.

We particularly enjoyed this alongside steamed tenderstem broccoli, and a very good Chardonnay.

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