Delia’s easy way to a ‘luxury’ fish pie settles an old family tiff about whether to include cheese
here are some words that, when I see them in recipes, make me feel immediately suspicious and/or nervous, and “luxury” is one. For me, “luxury” food is (a) something that someone else brings to me, (b) is cooked by someone else, or (c) makes me wince when I see the bill. Nothing I make in my kitchen is “luxury” as far as I’m concerned, and that the next three words in Delia’s recipe are “smoked fish pie” only added to my unease.
Don’t get me wrong: I love fish pie. But making it for other people is one of the most stressful experiences out there. In my last year of university, I lived alone but entertained large groups regularly, partly as an elaborate con to get them to top up my flat’s supplies of alcohol. I quickly learned there were some meals that weren’t worth making, as you’d soon be inundated with requests, all of which had the same basic shape: can you make it like my mum does it? The simpler the meal – and let’s face it, fish pie is fairly simple – the greater the number of quirks that each household can add, and the more my fish pie will leave you yearning for your mum’s.
In our household, fish pie tensions revolve around the use of cheese. I dislike the stuff, while my partner loves it. The fact that I rarely cook with it has taken a heavy toll on her (something I only really appreciated a few weeks ago, when a waiter at a favourite restaurant asked me how “the cheeseboard lady” was doing). In fish pie, I prefer using anchovies in lieu of cheese – a trick I learned from Felicity Cloake. My partner tells me
Tthis is almost as good as using cheese, though whether she says that out of politeness or genuine belief is unclear.
Delia’s luxury smoked fish pie recipe is a good reintroduction even if you think you know fish pie. The runthrough is very clear, and I avoided the usual moments of panic, when either none of the component parts are quite ready or they all are. It’s also a good grounding in the “theory” of a fish pie – you can change the components at will, while retaining the essential hallmarks: a white fish such as haddock for the base, an oilier fish such as salmon, plus another flavour such as kippers, depending on your mood. My one addendum: Delia recommends putting the haddock into bake for 10 minutes while skinning and boning the rest of the fish. Although this is a tight turnaround, you will want to let the haddock cool until it is “cool enough to handle”, giving you more time than you think to get the rest of the fish done. Delia describes her recipe as more of a party dish. You could, just about, make this on a working day, but I like it best as a weekend meal, particularly as the leftovers mature very well and make for a good packed lunch. What about the cheese? I had planned to make this recipe without cheese and simply lie about it – but then my partner threatened to report me to the press regulator, so I thought better of it. (Now that I think about it, she was simply being polite about the anchovy, wasn’t she?) But, as it turns out, Delia’s recipe calls on you to put the cheese on top, right at the end – an excellent compromise that allows me to make a his-and-hers fish pie that pleases everybody, and tastes delicious. Peace in our time: a fish pie to settle all arguments. If only Delia were running the world and not my kitchen.