There is something you need to know about fish pie, and it is this: it’s brilliant on the table with a delicious set of white wines you might not usually go near. Namely, chenin blanc from the Loire. I love Loire chenin – it has tension, it offers up interesting layers, like a white mist rolling across a landscape, constantly changing the view. So you might get a sweet inhalation of wild honey, poached quince, the smell of an orchard in autumn, winter leaves, wet wool… and so on.
This is all well and good but it’s not exactly sling it down at the end of a tired day aperitif stuff. And that’s where fish pie comes in.With succulent pieces of fish folded into creamy blankets of white sauce and crispy-topped, buttery mash, the chenin blanc sparkles. Even better, it turns the fish pie into something special. If you go for a Loire chenin blanc make sure it’s a dry or dryish one – one confusing thing about this area is that it produces wine at every possible level of sweetness. If that’s not what you feel like, look for a white that has curves and a bit of weight.
A chardonnay is a good option here (particularly if it is just lightly oaked) – even a very basic one will work, or reach for chablis, or a richer wine from South Africa or Australia. Muscadet also works, as does a textured grenache blanc. Or, fish pie is delicious with champagne. This is a luxurious option for a cosy NewYearin. No fizz recommendations here because olive goes to press before the supermarket Christmas champagne offers are released but, Tesco and Sainsbury’s both do good champagne work under own-label so watch out for deals.
4 GOOD MATCHES:
Vergelegen Chardonnay Stellenbosch 2012 South Africa, 13.5% (£10.99 or £8.99 each when you buy 2, majestic)
Glorious chardonnay, as bright and beautiful as early morning sunshine, with the warming glow of French oak underpinning it.
Winemakers’ Selection Falanghina del Beneventano 2012 Italy, 12% (£6.99, sainsbury’s)
This falanghina – an Italian grape that’s easier to drink than it is to pronounce – is bright and citrussy. No oak – just a crisp white.
Chateau de Fesles La Chapelle Vieilles Vignes Chenin Blanc 2011 Anjou, Loire, France, 13.5% (£13.99, waitrose)
Bit of a gastronomic choice, this – and a love or hate wine. Dry chenin blanc is a dream with creamy mash and prawns.
Toscana Bianco 2012 Italy, 12% (£5.99, M&S)
Like a mosaic, made from three different grapes – vermentino, chardonnay and just a freshening dab of sauvignon blanc. great for everyday drinking.
Fish pie recipe
bay leaf 1
white fish and salmon (from sustainable sources) 550g mix
smoked haddock 150g
plain flour 50g
single cream 100ml
prawns a handful or two
Maris Piper potatoes 1kg, peeled and cut into even chunks
milk a splash or two (heated in the microwave to make it easy)
To make the mash, put the potatoes in a pan of salted boiling water and cook until tender. Drain really well then mash with 50g of the butter, some more salt, white pepper and milk.
Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas6. To make the filling heat the milk and bay leaf in a large frying pan. Add all the fish fillets. Cover and cook very gently for 5 or 6 minutes until just opaque. Remove the fish and flake into chunks, discarding any skin and bone. Remove the bay leaf and throw away. Reserve the milk.
In another saucepan, melt the butter, then remove from the heat, add the flour and stir to a thick paste. Return to heat, continue stirring for 30 seconds, then gradually stir in the reserved milk. Cook for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Turn off heat then add the cream and leave to cool a little. Stir in flaked fish and prawns and season.
Transfer to a baking dish. spread the mash on top of the fish mixture and use a fork to ridge the surface. Dot with the remaining 25g butter. Cook in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the middle is piping hot and the top is golden brown.
PER SERVING: 788 kcals, protein 48.5g , carbs 57g, fat 41.1g, sat fat 22g, fibre 4.9g, salt 1.8g
This feature was published in January 2014
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