I suppose many mothers ask their children if they’d like a special dish for their birthday dinner. Grandma always asked me and the answer was always the same, Russian Fish Pie. I love ‘yellow fish’ in any shape or form – kedgeree is another favourite but since I’m avoiding carbs at the moment, let’s skip quickly over that – it’s bad enough thinking about this pie. Russian Fish Pie however was always my favourite. I’m a sucker for puff pastry and any kind of savoury pie. After I left home and only visited for weekends or short periods, Grandma still made it for me as a treat, although she always told me that really I should be able to make it myself by now. After she received the diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis at the end of 2001, we went to Formby to see her; again she asked if there was anything special she could make for me even though she knew the answer. When she served it, she looked me straight in the eyes and said that I really really did have to learn to make it myself now. Sadly, I knew she was right.
Move on a few months and the last time Grandma was in London. Russian Fish Pie was requested and Grandma showed me what to do. Now I have searched the internet for precise ingredients for this and I found them, so I will adapt them here so that you have something to follow. BUT you must make this to your own taste – I have been told often enough that my pie is not as good as Grandma’s, so you must fiddle around with the recipe until you get what you want to eat. Grandma did make one change to the recipe on a couple of occasions – she added a handful of prawns to the fish mix. I didn’t like this very much, and I don’t think any of you did either, but I’m reminding you that there is some wiggle room with the recipe.
Russian Fish Pie – Ingredients
- 1 lb / 500 g smoked haddock
- 1/2 pt / 280 ml milk (doesn’t matter what kind), plus extra for poaching
- 2 oz / 50 g butter
- 1 oz / 25 g flour
- 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
- Fresh parsley, chopped, about a small handful (so much for the precision)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 packets puff pastry – I use the ready rolled because I really am not good at rolling out
- Beaten egg for glazing
Put the fish in a pan and cover with milk. Dot half the butter on the fish. Add pepper. Bring milk to the boil, then simmer gently for about 15 mins. Remove from pan, cool and then flake. Try to remove all bones. Set aside.
Drain milk used for cooking, measure and make up to 1/2 pint / 280 ml. In a saucepan, melt the butter gently, then add flour. Stir until flour is absorbed by the butter. Leave to cook for a couple of minutes on a low heat. Add some of the milk/cooking liquid mix to the pan and whisk. Turn heat up slightly. Keep whisking and adding milk until all the milk has been used. Mix in the fish, parsley and hard boiled egg. Take off the heat and cool.
Put one of the ready rolled puff pastry rectangles on a baking tray. Put the fish mixture in the middle – leave roughly 1 inch / 2.5 cm free at the edge. Dampen the free edges with water. Put the other pastry rectangle on top. Now very carefully (this is important), push the two edges together. This is making a seal so that the filling can’t escape so take time and make sure the edges are sealed. If necessary, fold the edges upwards and towards the main body of the pie. You really don’t want the sauce to escape. Two reasons – it’s a waste of good sauce, and it’s a bugger to clean the baking tray. Put two slits in the top. Brush the top with the beaten egg. This will make the pie look golden or as Grandma told me, it stops the pie looking anaemic!
Put in the oven at 220 C / 450 F / Gas Mark 7 for about 45 minutes.