When it comes to comfort food it’s hard to beat a hearty homemade fisherman’s pie. The simple British dish typically consists of fish and other seafood bound together with a creamy béchamel sauce (otherwise known as white sauce). As with all good fish pies, it’s topped with a layer of fluffy mashed potatoes and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese for that perfect crunchy, golden top.
There are many variations to the classic dish, some including prawns and mussels in addition to fish, such as salmon or cod. It is common, however to use at least two or three different types of fish and some more traditional recipes also include halved boiled eggs, too.
Fisherman’s pie is a traditional British dish, although many European countries have their own version. According to Sydney-based British chef Olivia Casson, one of the earliest accounts of the dish dates back to 1110, during the reign of England’s King Henry I.
Traditionally, fish pie was the perfect way to use up any cheap, unwanted cuts of fish. It became a family favourite around Britain, and spread to other corners of the world as Brits migrated to the Commonwealth nations. For many families, it was an affordable and tasty dish most commonly enjoyed for Friday-night dinners.
Fisherman’s pie is surprisingly simple to whip up, but keeping a few tricks on-hand can make all the difference.
The key to a perfect fish pie is in the cooking of the fish. Casson advises to never cook the fish before it’s baked, and for extra texture, she insists on cutting the fish “quite chunky”. If you’re a fan of an extra-crunchy topping on your mashed potato, Casson recommends using a combination of cheddar, parmesan cheese and panko crumbs.
Serve the pie with a side of buttered peas and some crusty bread to soak up all the leftover sauce on your plate. Sounds tasty? Here’s how to do it!