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Traditional British Fish Pie Recipe

Updated on June 09, 2013
Traditional British fish pie is a meal in itself so is usually served only with one or two small vegetable accompaniments
Traditional British fish pie is a meal in itself so is usually served only with one or two small vegetable accompaniments

Traditional Fish Pie

A fish pie is a classic British dish, consisting in its most basic form of flaked pieces of fish in a white sauce, topped with creamy mashed potato and baked in the oven. Traditionally, a fish pie would be made using the cheapest offcuts of fish, which were essentially unsuited to most other purposes. A fish pie can be made with a great many varieties of fish but to be enjoyed at its best, it should be made with at least three different types. This recipe sees it made with salmon, smoked haddock and whiting. Do note, however, that the haddock is the undyed variety and not the luminous yellow production often seen on supermarket shelves.

Whiting, smoked haddock and salmon for traditional fish pie
Whiting, smoked haddock and salmon for traditional fish pie

Cook Time

  • Prep time: 15 min
  • Cook time: 1 hour 15 min
  • Ready in: 1 hour 30 min
  • Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8oz salmon fillet
  • 8oz smoked haddock fillet
  • 8oz whiting fillet
  • 3/4 pint* milk, plus a little extra for mashing potatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 small eggs
  • 2lb floury/starchy potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3oz butter, (1oz for mash, 2oz for sauce)
  • 2oz plain/all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Veg of choice to serve

*Note that this refers to a British pint measurement. If any assistance is required re US measurements or metric, these conversion tables may help.

Instructions

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Fish for pie is poached in milkPotatoes are chopped for boilingPoached fish is removed from milkHard boiled and peeled eggs are cooled in cold waterPotatoes are mashed with milk and butterFish is flaked for pie fillingCooled eggs are roughly chopped for adding to fish pie fillingA basic roux for bechamel sauceBechamel sauceCarefully combining the fish pie filling ingredientsFish pie filling is added to the pie dishA knife dipped in boiling water is used to smooth the pie toppingTraditional fish pie is ready for the ovenTraditional fish pie removed from the oven
Fish for pie is poached in milk
Fish for pie is poached in milk
Potatoes are chopped for boiling
Potatoes are chopped for boiling
Poached fish is removed from milk
Poached fish is removed from milk
Hard boiled and peeled eggs are cooled in cold water
Hard boiled and peeled eggs are cooled in cold water
Potatoes are mashed with milk and butter
Potatoes are mashed with milk and butter
Fish is flaked for pie filling
Fish is flaked for pie filling
Cooled eggs are roughly chopped for adding to fish pie filling
Cooled eggs are roughly chopped for adding to fish pie filling
A basic roux for bechamel sauce
A basic roux for bechamel sauce
Bechamel sauce
Bechamel sauce
Carefully combining the fish pie filling ingredients
Carefully combining the fish pie filling ingredients
Fish pie filling is added to the pie dish
Fish pie filling is added to the pie dish
A knife dipped in boiling water is used to smooth the pie topping
A knife dipped in boiling water is used to smooth the pie topping
Traditional fish pie is ready for the oven
Traditional fish pie is ready for the oven
Traditional fish pie removed from the oven
Traditional fish pie removed from the oven

Step by Step Guide to Making a Fish Pie

  1. Put the fish fillets in to a large pot with the bay leaf. Pour in the milk and ensure the fillets are covered. Put the pot on to the heat and bring the milk to the gentlest of simmers for five minutes only.
  2. Put the chopped potatoes in to a pot of cold, lightly salted water. Bring the water to a simmer for around twenty minutes until the potatoes are just softened.
  3. The eggs have to be hard boiled. Put them in to a pot of cold water. Put the pot on the heat and when the water boils, reduce to simmer for about eight minutes.
  4. Use a large slotted spoon to remove the fish fillets from the pot to a plate. Don't worry if they start to break up - you will be flaking them anyway. Cover and leave to cool until they can be easily handled. Discard the bay leaf and pour the milk in to a bowl or jug for later use.
  5. Take the pot containing the eggs to the sink and run cold water in to it until the eggs are cool enough to handle. Crack the shells, peel them and return to the cold water to cool them rapidly. This prevents discolouration around the edges of the yolk.
  6. Drain the potatoes and return to the empty pot. Allow them to steam for five minutes prior to mashing. This gets rid of the excess moisture, as otherwise you would get soggy mash. Add 1oz of the butter, a couple of tablespoons of milk and mash with a hand masher.
  7. Remove any remaining skin from the fish fillets and flake to medium sized pieces. The opportunity should also be taken at this stage to feel for and remove any bones. Roughly chop the cooled eggs.
  8. Gently reheat the milk in a large pot before returning to the jug. Melt the butter in the same pot and add the flour, stirring to form a roux. After a couple of minutes, begin adding the warm milk in three or four stages until a smooth bechamel sauce is formed.
  9. The fish flakes, chopped eggs and parsley should be added to the bechamel sauce. Season with salt and white pepper. Combine by using a slow and steady folding motion, rather than a firm stirring motion.
  10. Preheat your oven to 375F/190C. Pour the filling in to a suitable pie dish and gently and evenly disperse with the back of your wooden spoon.
  11. Do not simply tip the mash on to the filling and try to smooth it out this way. That is a recipe for disaster and you will succeed only in stirring it through the filling. Instead, use a spoon to add it in lumps, over the filling. A knife dipped in a cup of boiling water should then be used to smooth it out and create wave like ripples on the surface.
  12. Put the pie on to a baking tray (prevents potential spillage going all over oven) and in to the oven for thirty minutes.
  13. When the pie comes out of the oven, it is technically ready to eat. Putting it under a hot grill or broiler for five minutes, however, gives the potato a beautiful golden crust. Set aside to rest for ten minutes or so while you perpare your vegetbale accompaniment(s).
The traditional British fish pie has been browned under the grill/broiler
The traditional British fish pie has been browned under the grill/broiler

Variations on the Traditional Fish Pie Recipe

As is so often the case with classic recipes, the modern era sees them adapted, enhanced and "improved" to suit the needs of the cook or chef striving for ever more complex and aesthetically pleasing dishes. While it is possible to develop a traditional fish pie recipe in any number of ways, it is vital never to lose sight of the most important ingredient and flavour of all - the fish. You may wish to try adding some leek (stem only), peas or carrots to the fish pie filling, while dill is a herb which really can add a little extra something to the sauce. Try also scattering some grated cheddar cheese over the top before you put it under the grill or broiler.

However you choose to prepare it and with whichever type of fish, hopefully this old dish borne of need and circumstance is something your family can enjoy for a long time to come.

Brussels sprouts go very well served with a portion of traditional British fish pie
Brussels sprouts go very well served with a portion of traditional British fish pie

What did you think of this fish pie recipe?

4.8 stars from 6 ratings of this Traditional British Fish Pie

Comments

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    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 23 months ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      I very much hope your husband enjoyed his pie, Elsie. Thanks for visiting.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 2 years ago from New Zealand

      My husband wants a fish pie for tea, so here I'm looking for a recipe. this one seems to be the best, but when I look at it, I think I have been making it for years like this only he doedn't realize it, so hope this one works for him and keeps him healthy and happy.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 2 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Fish pie is a big favourite of mine also LaThing and is so versatile. I hope you enjoy this version. It really is pretty straightforward and need not be complicated at all to make. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • LaThing profile image

      LaThing 2 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      This looks wonderful! Fish Pie is my favorite fish dish..... Have to give it a try. You make it look pretty simple. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 3 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Hi, Tony

      Thank you. Good to hear from you. I hope you enjoy the fish pie. I think adding turmeric in particular is a great idea. Funnily enough, I read somewhere recently how good turmeric actually can be for health. The Chinese fish sauce and anchovies are also something I love.

      Talk soon,

      Gordon

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 3 years ago from Yorkshire

      Gordon

      when I needed a fish pie recipe for tea today, I knew I'd find one here.

      Just popped it in the oven, it looks very good.

      I coloured the potatoes using turmeric powder when they were cooking and added Chinese style fish sauce and anchovies to give it a real boost.

      voted up and 5 stars

      regards

      Tony

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 3 years ago from Yorkshire

      HI Gordon

      I wanted a fish pie recipe for tea, and I knew where I would find a good one. This sounds just what I wanted, and plenty of tips along the way too. Hope you are well these days.

      regards

      Tony

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Hi, peachpurple. Yes, this is easy to make, healthy and good for dieters. It's a little bit time consuming but more than worth the effort. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Hello, Suzette and thank you. Fish pie is something which I know can be quite a localised dish but the good news is that it's incredibly versatile and can be successfully made with many different types of fish from around the world. I hope you have some local fish types which are suitable and you get to give this a try. Enjoy!

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Hi, Liz. Thanks for the compliment and for visiting. I hope you enjoy what is a long standing favourite dish for me.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      This fish pie looks so good and easy to bake. Very healthy dish for weight watchers. Voted up and useful

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Wow! I have never heard of fish pie before, but this recipe sounds and looks delicious. Your presentation of this food and recipe is wonderful and I enjoyed reading this. I enjoy learning about new foods and recipes. I will have to try this recipe - quite inspirational!

    • Liz-reviews profile image

      Eunice Elizabeth 4 years ago from Vancouver, BC

      Hi Gordan, this looks like a fabulous recipe that I need to try.

      You have lots of awesome recipes on your Hubpage which I'll be checking out as well. Thanks for the new recipe.

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