Being married to my very own Bloke for almost a decade, I’ve learned quite a bit about British culture. Don’t tell my relatives, but some of it I just don’t get. Fawlty Towers, mincemeat pie, and pathological politeness (if you know what I mean, you know what I mean) all cause me to raise an eyebrow in complete confusion.
After a few less-than-impressive pub lunches, I wasn’t too keen on English cuisine, either. But the more I explore the traditional comfort foods of my Bloke’s homeland, the more I find to adore.
It all started with fish and chips with malt vinegar. I mean, what’s not to love? Then I discovered the wonders of shepherd’s pie. My most recent obsession came from a conversation with my English friend and backyard chicken lover, Sophie, who was whipping up a savory fish pie one night for dinner.
Where I grew up, the only thing that went in pie was apples, peaches, blueberries, and those freakishly red cherries. So this whole dinner-in-a-pie thing was at first weird, then fun. Oddly enough, most of these savory ‘pies’ don’t sit in a crust like you might expect but, instead, are topped with either a puff pastry (as in a classic chicken pot pie – I make mine with a crumble) or mashed potatoes. These pies are the British version of down-home, bubbling American casseroles.
I’ve added a California twist to my own savory fish pie by swapping out the traditional potato topping with a light cauliflower crust. It’s really delicious either way. I love using salmon for a bit of color (and because it’s what we usually have in our freezer), but you could certainly make this with a wild Alaskan cod for a more classic dish. If you can help it, don’t skip the smoked white fish – it really gives the flavor a special depth, perfect for a warm and cozy dinner. Cheers!
Savory fish pie ingredients
- 1 small head cauliflower
- 3/4 cups butter, ghee or bacon fat
- 1 T. sea salt – this is my favorite sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 3/4 pounds salmon
- 6 oz. smoked white fish
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup cream*, preferably from grass-fed cows
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp. peppercorns
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 T. sprouted wheat flour* – get sprouted flour here
- 2 T. Dijon mustard
- 2 T. fresh dill
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese*
*To transform this recipe into a paleo fish pie, simply replace the cream with more chicken stock, replace the flour with 2 T. arrowroot powder, and omit the parmesan cheese.
Savory fish pie method
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Break cauliflower into florets. In a large saucepan, cover cauliflower florets with filtered water and boil until tender. Drain and transfer to a food processor with 3 T. butter or olive oil. Process until cauliflower is smooth. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
- While the cauliflower boils, remove the skin from the salmon (if necessary) and cut into 1 inch chunks.
- In a large saucepan, mix chicken stock, cream, wine, bay leaves and peppercorns and bring to a boil. Add the fresh salmon pieces to the liquid, reduce heat and simmer gently for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and using a slotted spoon, transfer the fish chunks onto a plate. Strain and reserve the liquid, and scatter the cooked fish over the base of a large, shallow oven-proof dish. Flake the smoked fish into the dish as well.
- In a clean saucepan, melt 3 T. of butter, add the flour and mustard and mix well. Cook for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Gradually add the cooking liquid from the fish, whisking it in a little at a time and then return to heat. Bring gently to a boil and allow to simmer for 10 minutes to make a roux (thickened sauce).
- Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, and pour over the fish in the shallow dish.
- Spread cauliflower mash over the fish in the oven-proof dish so that it covers the fish completely – you can score patterns in the mash with a fork to make it pretty. Sprinkle grated cheese over the mash.
- Bake uncovered for about 35 minutes until nicely browned and bubbling. Top with chopped fresh dill.