Mum’s fish pie recipe by Gill Meller

This is my interpretation of my mum’s fish pie and I think it’s pretty close. The thing is, she never wrote any of her recipes down, so if I try and recreate something she made, I do it by memory. The memories I have of being in the kitchen with her as she prepared the smoked fish, shelled the mussels, chopped the parsley and mashed the spuds.

Serves 8
For the filling
fresh live mussels 800g, washed and debearded
free-range eggs 6, at room temperature
butter 125g
leeks 2 medium, split, washed and thinly sliced
plain flour 100g
whole milk 500ml, warmed
double cream 200ml
natural smoked haddock 600g, skinned and cubed
whiting, hake or cod fillet 400g, skinned and cubed
flat-leaf parsley 1 bunch, leaves picked and finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping
white floury potatoes about 1.2kg, peeled and cut into large chunks
butter 100g
whole milk 150ml
coarse white breadcrumbs 2-3 tbsp
mature cheddar cheese 2-3 tbsp
salt and black pepper

Place a large pan over a high heat. Add 100ml water and when it’s boiling hard, tip in the mussels and put on a close-fitting lid. Cook, shaking the pan once or twice, for 1-2 minutes, or until the mussel shells are just open. Drain them in a colander set over a bowl to catch the cooking liquor, and reserve. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened up.

When the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells and place it in a bowl.

Cook the eggs in boiling water for 6-7 minutes. Drain them and carefully peel them when they’ve cooled a bit.

For the topping, bring the potatoes to the boil in plenty of salted water. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until they are really tender. Drain and allow them to steam off for 5 minutes, then return them to the pan. Mash the potatoes thoroughly, then beat in the 100g of butter and the milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 180C fan/gas mark 6.

For the filling, place a large heavy-based pan on a medium heat and add 25g of the butter. When it’s hot add the leeks, season and cook stirring regularly for 6-8 minutes or until they are soft. Lift the leeks from the pan to a plate, return the pan to the heat and add the remaining 100g of the butter. When it’s bubbling away add the flour, stir well and cook for a minute or so. Now gradually add the warm milk and the mussel liquor (except the very last bit which can be gritty), and stir until you have a smooth thick sauce. Allow the sauce to cook away gently for 4-5 minutes, then add the cream and the cubed fish, along with the mussels, leeks and chopped parsley. Season well with salt and pepper, and carefully stir everything together.

Halve the eggs and arrange them over the base of a large baking dish. Ladle the fish and sauce over the top, level it out, then carefully spoon over the warm mash. Sprinkle the top of the pie with the breadcrumbs and cheese, and place in the oven to bake for about 25-30 minutes until piping hot and golden on top.

Allow the pie to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Gill Meller is a chef and food writer; his latest book is Outside: Recipes for a Wilder Way of Eating (Hardie Grant, £30)