Delia’s easy way to a ‘lux­ury’ fish pie set­tles an old fam­ily tiff about whether to in­clude cheese

The Guardian - Cook - - The Delia Project -

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.

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