Test kitchen: Jamie Oliver's Fish Pie

 

I’ve been a huge fan of Britain’s Jamie Oliver for quite a few years – I’ve adored him since his very first, cherub-faced TV series and long before he wed the luscious Jools and had those cute kids. I’ve watched him traipse across Italy in his battered camper van to cook with the locals; I’ve planted my own veggie garden inspired by his impressive country efforts. And, more recently, during a period of convalescence, I sat happily and hungrily through about 200 hours of Jamie DVDs donated by my gift-savvy friend Sandy. Naturally, I have over the years also coaxed Salvelio into buying me Jamie cookbooks for any and every occasion that could possibly warrant a spot of gift-giving. Christmas 2008 was no different and Jamie’s ‘Ministry of Food’ duly appeared in my stocking. In it Jamie gets back to basics by teaching a bunch of pasty-looking British people with a morbid fear of cooking how to do just that, re-affirming the idea that simple, satisfying home cooking really doesn’t have to be a cliff jump. I’ve tested several recipes from the book and this one is already a favourite – see my suggestions at the end of it.

 

Jamie’s fish pie from ‘The Ministry of Food’

Picture: Salvelio Meyer

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients

Salt and freshly ground black pepper; 1kg potatoes; 1 carrot (peeled); 2 sticks celery; 150g Cheddar cheese; 1 lemon; 1/2 a fresh red chilli; 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley; 300g salmon, skinned and filleted; 300g undyed smoked haddock, skinned and filleted; 125g raw king prawns, peeled; olive oil.

Optional: a good handful of spinach, chopped; a couple of ripe tomatoes, quartered;  a couple of tablespoons creme fraiche. 

To prepare your fish pie

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Peel the potatoes and cut into 2cm chunks. Once water is boiling, add potatoes and cook for around 12 minutes, until soft.

Meanwhile, get yourself a deep baking tray or earthenware dish and stand a box grater in it. Grate the carrot, celery and cheese on the coarse side of the grater and use the fine side to grate the zest from the lemon. Finely grate or chop the chilli. Finely chop the parsley and add.  

To cook and serve your fish pie

Cut the salmon and smoked haddock in bite-sized chunks and add to the tray with the prawns. Squeeze over the juice from the zested lemon, drizzle with olive oil and add a good pinch of salt and pepper. If you want to add spinach and/or tomato, do it now. Mix everything together really well. 

By now the potatoes should be cooked, so drain them in a colander and return to the pan. Drizzle with a couple of glugs of olive oil and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Mash until smooth, then spread evenly on top of the fish and grated veg. Place in the preheated oven for around 40 minutes, or until cooked through, crispy and golden on top. Serve piping hot. 

Louise’s verdict on Jamie’s fish pie

* South Africans must have bigger appetites than the Brits do because using Jamie’s quantities this dish was only enough for four hungry guests the first time I made it- and that was with the addition of spinach and tomatoes, which I would definitely recommend. The second time round, I bulked it up with extra fish and prawns – about 900g in total versus the 700 to 750g Jamie used – which was ample as a main course for six.

* Fresh salmon is pricey in SA and I opted for some beautiful fresh geelbek (yellowtail) instead. If you’re cutting costs I’d substitute the prawns with more fish, but I didn’t mind spending a bit extra on prawns because I was cooking the dish for guests. 

* I used two medium carrots, not one, and a mixture of pecorino and cheddar (only because I’d forgotten to buy extra cheddar!) I also forgot to buy fresh chilli but the 1/4 tsp of dried chilli I used added sufficient zing. Instead of normal tomatoes I used a small handful of cherry tomatoes, which I halved. 

* Jamie suggests adding a few tablespoons of creme fraiche to the fish mix if you want the fish pie to be creamy – so that’s exactly what I did. 

* I used a big, square Pyrex dish which worked well. However, to accommodate the bigger size I had to make a bit more mash – using about six potatoes in total. 

* The first time I made this I found the veggies were still a bit crunchy after 40 minutes. Next time round, I upped the cooking time to 50 minutes, but cut the fish into slightly bigger chunks so it wouldn’t be any less juicy due to the additional cooking time. 

* I served the fish pie with brown basmati rice, a simple green salad and a roasted pumpkin side dish, which seemed a great combination. Jamie suggested tomato sauce, baked beans, steamed veg or a green salad on the side.

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