Sunday, 15 April 2012

Thai fish pie - family style


This sounds mad, doesn't it? I first saw it on one of the last episodes of Something for the Weekend and thought I had to give it a go. Unfortunately, on looking at the recipe, I realised I would have to adapt it if I were to make it for all of us as it had fresh chillies in it. With this adaptation in mind, I set about buying the ingredients - and discovered that monkfish was not only difficult to find, it was damned expensive. There were various things about the recipe that I felt weren't quite right (you can tell it was written by a chef rather than a food writer) - like I'm still not sure if it was a typo that 200g butter would be added to the mash. So I've done my own version based on this.

I still add a bit of chilli powder to this, but if you want, you can leave it out. However, I like that it leaves a little bit of warmth at the back of your mouth, just enough for you to know it's there but not enough to have Monkey and Missy Woo grabbing drinks and complaining "It's too spicy." They love this, as do I. If you do want it really spicy, just add some fresh chopped chilli in step 2.

The important ingredients are the lemongrass and the kaffir lime leaves, as they really add flavour. Both are easily bought from supermarkets these days - make sure you buy fresh, not dried, lemongrass.

Thai Fish Pie
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
700g sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
200g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tbsp vegetable
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised (just bash it with the handle of a knife)
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 tsp mild chilli powder (optional)
400ml coconut milk
100ml milk
400g white fish, cut into chunks
200g salmon, skin removed and cut into chunks
200g peeled prawns, preferably king or jumbo size, either raw or cooked
25g butter, plus a knob of butter for the mash
25g flour
100g frozen peas
1 lime, juice and zest
fish sauce (optional)


1. First, place the sweet potato and potato into a pan of hot water, cover and bring to the boil. Simmer until soft. Drain.

2. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion, garlic, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Cook over a medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add the chilli powder, if using, stir and cook for a couple more minutes. Add both milks. If using light coconut milk, turn the heat right down immediately. If you have time, turn the heat off and leave to stand for a while to infuse.

3. Add the white fish and salmon to the pan. If you're worried about the coconut milk splitting, turn the heat off and allow the fish to poach using residual heat, otherwise keep the heat down as low as possible. After about 3/4 minutes, add the prawns if they are raw. They will turn pink when they are cooked.

4. Using a slotted spoon, lift the fish out of the pan and place in your dish, putting the poaching liquor to one side. Your dish needs to be about 25cm x 25cm although I tend to use a small lasagne dish. Scatter over the peas.  Turn the oven onto 200 C /400F / Gas 6.

5. When the potatoes are done, mash them with a knob of butter. I also tend to add a squeeze of lime juice to cut the sweetness. Season. Take the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves out of the poaching liquor before you make the sauce.

6. In another pan, melt the 25g butter, add the flour, and cook for a minute. Add the poaching liquor a bit at a time, whisking constantly. Once it's all added, squeeze in the rest of the juice of the lime and add the zest, bring it up to the boil then simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring all the time. Season to taste - I tend to do this with a dash of fish sauce, but you can use salt and pepper if you like.

7. Pour the sauce over the fish and peas. Scoop the mash over the fish and rough up the surface in whatever way you choose; I tend to use the back of a spoon. Cook in the oven for 25 minutes. If you like a crispy top (don't we all?), place it under a hot grill for a few minutes.

You can serve with some stir fried greens if you like but it's fine just as it is, and leftovers also reheat well.

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