There's something that happens when I put on an apron. It's like when Clark Kent steps into a phone booth and flies out wearing a cape. Suddenly he goes from shy unassuming newspaper reporter to Superman! That cape makes all the difference. That's me! I may not be Superman or Superwoman, as the case may be, but once I put on an apron I do feel incredibly capable and able to take on any villain who should venture into my kitchen ... or tackle the most intricate of recipes. Or at least I ‘think’ I can and that's half the battle.
A couple of years ago, I had the bright idea to throw a pie party. Like all of my bright ideas it occurred to me while I was in the shower and by the time I stepped out I decided that the party would take place in two weeks, and that I would bake a variety of pies, at least twenty, savory and sweet. Yes, to personalized invitations; yes, to tablecloths; and no, to paper plates and plastic utensils. Additionally, I decided a variety of homemade milkshakes was needed, and of course costumes would be required. This was during my Mad Men craze so 1960’s dress would be mandatory. If you couldn’t drink Old Fashioneds or work a beehive then sorry, no pie for you! Planning done! Sounds like a lot I know, but I’d be wearing an apron so what could possibly go wrong?
Except that so much did ... I didn’t take into consideration that between my full-time job, two dogs, a boyfriend (at the time), the book club, boxing, friends, and a dozen other activities, and let’s not forget sleep, that finding the time to bake (at least) twenty pies, was going to take some creativity ... and extra hours in the day. Clearly this wasn’t going to happen in two weeks. No matter how many different aprons I tied on.
What actually happened was that “pie party” became “pie contest.” Thankfully my friends are well aware of my predilection for taking on too much at times and were not at all surprised when they received frantic texts from me two days before the party asking (read: begging) that they each bring a pie, savory or sweet, and that this pie party was switching gears and was going to be so, so much better as a pie contest. And yes, there would be prizes (read: bribes). My only caveat was that the pies be homemade. I might be begging, but absolutely no store bought pies allowed!
My pie, this pie, didn’t win the contest. The day of the party turned out to be unseasonably warm and humid for July in San Francisco and the strawberry smoothie ice cream pie ran away with the prize (a dish of your choosing cooked by yours truly). In retrospect, I probably should have made those milkshakes after all. It wasn’t quite the day for a bubbling hot fish pie topped with mashed potatoes, but everyone who tasted it asked for the recipe. In my eyes, I won.
So, that's what happens when I put on an apron. I feel like I can even take on pies. You can't really go wrong with cream, butter and potatoes, and this is one of my favorites. So, put on an apron or a cape, and bake it. No guarantees that you'll win a contest, but someone will definitely ask you for the recipe!
irish farmhouse fish pie
- 1 pound cod or haddock
- 1.5 pint milk
- 1 small onion peeled
- 2.25 ounces butter
- 2.25 ounces flour
- 2.25 ounces Kilmeaden Cheese
- 3 small ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
- 2 hard boiled eggs, shelled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the potato topping
- 1 pound potatoes, peeled
- 2.25 ounces butter
- 4 tablespoons cream
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven at 350ºF.
Remove the bones from the fish. Place the fish, onion and milk together in a saucepan and bring gently to boil over a low heat. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
Strain off the milk from the fish through a sieve or colander and keep it for the sauce. Discard the onion. Flake the fish, removing any skin and bone.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes, then pour in the strained-off milk gradually, stirring well until the sauce comes to simmering point. Add the cheese and cook for two minute, stirring continuously, until melted.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the fish, chopped tomatoes, hard boiled egg, chopped parsley, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Put the mixture into a pie dish
Meanwhile, cut the peeled potatoes in chunks and boil until tender. Drain in a colander, return to pan and mash well. Mash in butter and cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cover the fish mixture with the mashed potatoes. Bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes until cooked through and browned.