I'm wild about this fish pie! It's a good source of protein and veggies, super hearty and taken up a notch in the fancy department by a few simple kitchen techniques...the roasted leeks are next level.
A good fish pie is excellent comfort food. With its creamy white fish sauce and pastry or mashed potato topping, it’s stupidly delicious and tastes even better reheated the next day.
Without butchering this classic British dish, this dinner recipe idea offers all of the flavour oomph but with nutritional consideration.
While not the speediest dish to whip up, it’s nothing too crazy time-wise. The two pie layers require separate preparation (and a few pots and pans). It’s all worth it though, once you have a mouthful!
When making your pie, these techniques will really help elevate it:
Oven bake the leek. Leeks are in the same family as onions, but have a milder, more delicate flavour. When oven-baked, they get caramelised, sticky and delish. Early in the prep, you roast a leek by simply cutting in half, drizzling with oil, salt and pepper, and waiting until the edges turn brown in the oven. Mixed through the white sauce, it’s 10 out of 10 good.
Make sure your white sauce is thick. A white sauce, also known as bechamel, sees butter and flour (plain or gluten-free) cooked together over a stovetop (a mixture known as a roux). Milk is then added to make a thick sauce – thick like honey, where it coats the back of a spoon! It won’t thicken anymore in the oven, so you want the sauce to get your sauce very thick at this step.
A few tips – warm the milk before you add it to speed the process. Then, add a splash of milk to the roux, and whisk well before adding the rest, to help prevent clumps at the end.
Rake then fan-bake. Fan-baking circulates hot air in an oven, resulting in a faster cooking time. It’s great for browning goods, giving us those gorgeous crispy brown bits on our mashed potato topping! The more ridges, the more crunch, so get in there and swirl the top with a spoon or rake with a fork like it’s some kind of zen garden.
Fish can be a great source of protein and omega-3, the latter a type of oil that has anti-inflammatory properties.
Depending on the fish, will determine the omega-3 content. I’ve used supermarket smoked hoki here, a white fish common in NZ, that’s rich in omega-3. Canned tuna is also an excellent source and works well here (and is super budget-friendly too!).
This pie is a good source of nutrient-rich vegetables, like leeks, peas and spinach, to help you along towards your recommended 5+ servings of produce a day!
With a potato-topping and the ability to use gluten-free flour in your roux, this pie is suitable for those who are gluten-free due to health reasons or dietary preference.
The ingredients in the recipe are my pick for the most (subjectively) delicious end outcome. BUT, because I’m all about using what you’ve got, here are some substitution ideas that should totally work:
Don’t have potatoes? You could use kumara (sweet potato) or even pumpkin! A mix would be nice. Pumpkin will bring the carbohydrate content down.
No smoked fish? The smokiness of smoked fish adds an amazing flavour dimension. But I’ve made this with tinned tuna a lot and it’s really yummy (and cheap!).
Leeks be gone? Sub for an onion, skip the roasting step and instead sauté in a pan until soft. Add to the pie where you’d mix in the leek to the bechamel.
My household is obsessed with this dish! It has been lovingly tweaked to what we hope is fish pie perfection – enjoy!
4Tbspbutter (around 55g) + extra to taste for mashing potatoes
4 Tbspflour (regular or gluten free)
½cupgrated cheese (edam, tasty or colby)
400gsmoked white fish or sub for a 415g tin tuna in spring water
1 ½cupfrozen peas
3cupsfresh baby spinach
2Tbspfresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to fan-bake 180 degrees celsius. Get a rectangular baking dish out (mine was 29.5cm x 20cm) and keep handy.
Remove green leaves from leek and discard. Slice white leek in halve length ways and put on a baking tray. Lightly drizzle over olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fan-bake for 12 minutes, or until slightly charred at the edges. Remove and keep aside. Turn oven heat up to 200 degrees celsius, keeping fan-bake on.
Leaving the skins on, dice potatoes into chunks. Add into a medium pot and cover with boiling water. Bring to boil and cook until tender. The cooking time is going to come down to size – the smaller, the quicker to boil. Once cooked through, turn off the heat and let them sit in the water.
To a small saucepan, add butter and melt over a medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook into a paste, stirring continuously, until it bubbles a little, but don't let it brown – this will take about 2 minutes.
Add milk. Bring to boil and continue to stir – it will thicken. Lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more.
Turn heat off sauce element. Add cheese to pot and stir in to melt.
Add chili flakes, dijon mustard, frozen peas, baby spinach and lemon juice. Using kitchen scissors, finely cut leek and add to the pot. If using smoked fish, break with hands into bite-sized pieces and add to the pot. If using tuna, drain liquid from can and add fish to pot. Mix well.
Add salt and pepper until it tastes seasoned to you!
Add the fish pie mixture to your baking dish and evenly spread out.
Drain potatoes. Mash with butter, salt and pepper (to taste). Finely chop parsley, and then mix through.
Spoon mash over fish pie base and spread out evenly.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden or to how you like it.
Remove from oven, let it sit for ten minutes then enjoy.