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Weekend Woman's Hour

1 hour
First broadcast:
Saturday 08 October 2011

Cook the Perfect...Fish Pie, just one of the highlights from the Woman's Hour week. The BBC's George Alagiah discusses mixed race Britain and his own marriage; we hear ballet secrets from Deborah Bull; women who don't know they are HIV positive; safeguarding women's rights in Afghanistan; opera's Dame Janet Baker reveals she never got over stage nerves; stories for children - is a digital future inevitable? Presented by Jane Garvey.

  • Cook the perfect.. fish pie

    Tips and techniques

    1. Make sure there are no bones in your fish.
    2. Always ask for undyed smoked fish.
    3. Use full fat milk for a nice creamy flavour.
    4. Add a little wine to your white sauce.
    5. The best way to avoid lumps in a white sauce is firstly use hot milk, secondly use a whisk. Cook on a low-ish heat and keep whisking all the time.
    6. Hardboiled eggs make a nice addition but don't add them if you're planning to freeze the dish first.
    RecipeServes 6-8.

    1.5kg / 3lb 5oz skinless fish fillets(haddock/cod/coley/ling and undyed smoked haddock)
    600ml / 20fl oz whole milk
    25g / 1oz fresh parsley (stalks and leaves)
    8-10 peppercorns
    60g / 2¼oz butter
    60g / 2¼oz plain flour
    100ml / 3½fl oz dry white wine
    3 heaped tablespoons capers
    the zest of 1 large lemon
    3 large free-range eggs, hard-boiled and sliced
    for the topping

    1.8kg / 4lb potatoes and parsnips/celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks
    60g / 2¼oz butter
    milk for thinning, if necessary
    25g / 1oz freshly grated Parmesan

    Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF), gas mark 4

    Place the fish in a saucepan with the milk. Add the parsley stalks and peppercorns, and bring slowly to the boil. Bubble for 2 minutes and then remove from the heat, cover and leave for about half an hour. Meanwhile, to make the topping, boil the potatoes (and parsnips/celeriac) until tender, and then drain thoroughly. Mash with the butter until soft (adding a little milk if it is too thick) and then add the cheese.

    Season to taste.

    Strain the fish liquor over a bowl and break the fish into large chunks. Place these in a large ovenproof dish. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and then add the flour. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes and then gradually add the wine and milk, whisking until smooth. Cook for about 5 minutes and then remove from the heat and add the capers and lemon zest. Chop and add the parsley leaves.

    Taste for seasoning.

    Place the egg slices on top of the fish and then tip over the sauce. Spoon the mash over the fish, level with a knife and then fork up. Place on a baking tray (in case of spillage) and then bake in the oven for about 1 hour or until piping hot and golden brown.

    Leave for 5 minutes before serving.

    A note from Sue

    I have given suggestions for the white fish fillets to use for this pie; but I also sometimes add in a couple of salmon fillets, for both flavour and colour. I usually use half smoked fish, half unsmoked. And, for the topping, I like to use about two-thirds potatoes to a third either parsnips or celeriac. Serve with peas or roasted fennel. (This dish can be prepared a day in advance - just cover and chill after topping with the potato. Be sure to bring it back to room temperature before cooking, though.)


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