The phenomenon until now seemed confined to cakes and desserts but Marks & Spencer has gone one better - or worse, depending on your point of view - and developed the fish and chip pie. If it weren't for the date I would have wondered if this was an April fool. In fact though, it may actually be ingenious - fish and chips, and pies, are two of the nations favourite dishes. It sounds like an unhealthy, stogy combination, but by creating it under its Gastropub range, M&S actually makes this creation sound quite upmarket. It boasts shortcrust pastry, cod chunks, minted pea puree and a bechamel tartar sauce, with the top of the pie made not from pastry but from chips. You'll just have to see for yourself here.
Now, I'm a big fan of fish and chips, and don't tend to eat pies due to the calorie and fat content of pastry, but was intrigued and really wanted to try this dish. Unfortunately I'm also a very fussy eater and there's no way I'd go near something containing peas, pureed or otherwise. So what did I do? Made my own, of course!
This is entirely my own recipe and it is inspired by the M&S fish and chip pie, which I urge you to purchase and try - and let me know how it tastes. For my non-pea version, you need:
An individual pie or casserole or otherwise oven-proof dish. I wouldn't use a ramekin as it's too small. I used one that had belonged to my late grandparents.
Cook the oven chips according to packet instructions. Meanwhile prepare the rest of the dish.
Grease your individual casserole dish, roll out the pastry and use to line the dish, trimming off any excess. Bake blind in a preheaten oven at 180C (or whatever temperature you are cooking your chips at - it makes sense to do this at the same time).
Poach the fish in a saucepan of milk, or cook in the microwave or oven - basically, whatever is your preferred method of cooking fish. I haven't given timings as it will depend what kind of fish and how much you are using. The cheap white fish fillets you get from supermarket freezer sections work well for this, as the other flavourings of the dish liven up the relatively plain fish, and it is a way of keeping the cost down if you are on a tight budget.
Meanwhile make your sauce. Melt the butter in a small pan over a medium heat and stir in the flour, then a little of the milk to make a roux. (If you have poached the fish in milk, use this milk for the sauce). Gradually add the rest of the milk and stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and add a dash of vinegar and the capers to give the tartare sauce flavour. Allow the sauce to cool a little.
Break the fish into large chunks and spread in the pastry case then pour over the sauce. Top with chips - it's up to you whether you arrange them haphazardly or neatly in rows. Return the dish to the oven for five minutes to brown.
Serve with green veg or extra chips if desired - or those dreadful mushy peas. In fact if you do like peas, you could add them to the pie as M&S has done, but I wouldn't have the first clue how to cook peas as I've never done so.
This recipe got me thinking - since fish and chips and pies are some of the nation's favourite food, could I make the number one British dish into a pie? Watch this space.....