Try this weeknight British-style white fish pie

Pie plate full of white fish and peas

I spend lots of time reading old Alaska cookbooks and I have made many versions of pirok, or Russian-influenced salmon or halibut pie with rice, fish, eggs, and pie pastry. Recently, though, feeling springtime frozen fish pressure, I have been mixing up my fish pie game with a British-style pie. In particular, I’ve fallen in love with a most endearing and grandfatherly British celebrity chef named Rick Stein, who appears to be kind of the fish pie king of the country. In his pie videos, his hands shake a little and he seems to throw a little of this or that in on a whim. The pies are just delicious.

Traditional fish pie—like many dishes in England—is made very simply, with white fish like pollock and sometimes smoked fish like haddock, a simple cream sauce, boiled egg, and parsley. Stein has a number of pie recipes, including one topped with mashed potato and made with heavy cream that’s pretty great. I was drawn to his simple “quick fish pie” recipe from his book, Simple Suppers. Made with store-bought puff pastry on top, it’s both beautiful and fast to pull together for a dinner party. If you can’t find puff pastry, you can substitute a store-bought or homemade pie crust.

What I liked about this recipe most was the smoky, rich sauce. Stein used smoked haddock to flavor the pie and started the sauce by poaching the haddock in milk to steep in that smoky flavor. I adapted the recipe to fish that’s easy for Alaskans to get their hands on and used a very salty, smoky salmon strip instead, which worked great. You could also use regular smoked salmon or, if you have it, a little smoked black cod. Stein uses boiled eggs in his pies, which I skipped due to the pickiness of my young pie eaters, but I did add peas, because they say “fish pie” to me.

British-style fish pie

Serves 6 – 8


Butter for the pan

2½ cups whole milk

½ large white onion

4 cloves

1 bay leaf

1¾ pounds white fish, like halibut or cod

3 ounces smoked salmon strips, skins cut off, or 3 ounces smoked salmon, skin removed

1 cup frozen peas

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 ounces sharp English Cheddar, grated

⅓ cup chopped parsley

2 teaspoons white wine or vermouth

Pinch of nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

1 8-ounce sheet store-bought puff pastry, thawed

1 tablespoon of milk to glaze


Preheat the oven to 400° F. In a 4- to 6-quart pot, place the milk, the onion studded with the cloves, the bay leaf, white fish, and smoked salmon. Bring the milk to a bubble, turn it down to a simmer, and allow the fish to poach for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the fish and the other solids. Discard the onion and bay leaf. Crumble the fish and arrange it inside a buttered 9-inch pie pan. Sprinkle the frozen peas on top. Set aside. Whisk the yolks and cornstarch in a small bowl. Whisking constantly, ladle some of the warm milk into the egg mixture. Then scrape that mixture back into the pan full of poaching liquid and return to medium heat.

Add wine or vermouth, allow mixture to boil gently for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. The sauce should thicken to a warm pudding texture. Add cheese, parsley, and nutmeg. Stir until cheese is melted, remove from the heat, taste, adjust salt and pepper. Pour over the fish in the pie pan. Roll out the puff pastry sheet so that it is at least an inch larger than the pan on all sides. Carefully place it on top of the pie, tuck it under the lip of the pan, press the edges with a fork, and trim excess. Prick the top a few times to let out the steam. Brush it with milk. Place the pie on a sheet pan to catch any overflow, and slide into the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until it’s golden and puffed. Serve right away.

British-style white fish pie. (Julia O’Malley)

This recipe was originally published in Edible Alaska.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *