In Pursuit of Perfection
It has become apparent to me of late that I am officially an addict. I have seen it occur in so many friends; that first try and taste hooking them in instantly, an inability to break away from it and try new things. My drug of choice: the fish pie. It started with my auntie’s classic version; creamy, rich and filled with perfectly cooked meaty white fish. Since then I have embarked upon my own journey of discovery by attempting to create my version of the perfect fish pie.
This is definitely easier said than done. A friend of mine has been perfecting macaroni and cheese for a good ten years now. With each version come new ideas and combinations, all of which reveal themselves to be delicious concoctions, yet how do you decide on the ultimate? I fear there is no ending to this task. Don’t get me wrong, I am thoroughly enjoying the process; what could be better than the excuse to cook and eat your preferred dish on a regular basis under the disguise of research? What worries me is that I shall go off the dish due to over indulgence before having achieved perfection!
Anyway, enough of my fears, lets talk about fish pie. I am truly at the starting line as this is only my second attempt. The first was a taste if not an aesthetic success; I learnt my lesson about sticking to measurements and using the right equipment, as the “pie” took on the effect of having been pureed due to a too thin roux and the use of a metal roasting tray in place of an oven dish. The taste however, saved me; freshly shelled summer peas, smoked haddock, large succulent prawns, dill and a touch of Dijon mustard. All in all, a job well done.
My second attempt this evening did in fact exceed my own expectations. I gently cooked leeks in a small amount of butter, salt and pepper and layered them on the bottom of the dish (I was lucky enough to be given an earthenware dish for my birthday, perfect for these experimental evenings, from one of the guinea pigs of my first attempt). I poached smoked haddock in milk and white wine and left it to cool whilst I made the roux. Having used the correct measurements I managed to create a lovely think consistency using the milk the fish had been poaching in and adding double cream, a few good dollops of Dijon mustard, a little more white wine and fresh parsley. Once I’d folded the fish and the prawns into the mixture I spooned it on top of the leeks and let it sit for a while. Apparently, leaving it to cool for a time makes it easier to spread the mash onto it (thank you Diana Henry). Of course, as the purist that I am, the only thing this could be topped with was a wonderfully creamy, fluffy mash. The next thirty minutes proved to be torture as we could smell it and hear it bubbling way in the oven. When it finally emerged the potato had taken on a lovely golden colour whilst the sauce had just started to bubble out of the sides. Yummy!!!!!
I am not one to blow my own trumpet so I therefore urge you to try it at home and discover the wonders of a good home made fish pie; perfect for a wet, autumn evening with a few friends and a bottle of wine. If that one doesn’t appeal I have been working on the next concoction involving sweet potato mash. I’ll keep you updated.