Potato-topped pies are a family favourite. To make a good pie topping, season potatoes generously with salt, whip in a generous lump of butter to add flavour and prevent the purée becoming dry, and whip in enough hot milk to make it fluffy, but not so much that it becomes shapeless and sloppy. It’s the middle road you’re after for a pie topping!
It’s also important to use moist smoked fish, not dried out leathery fish. The choice of fish is yours – use stronger flavoured fish if you are sure everyone likes it (not me!) or opt for milder fish if unsure.
1 kg (2 lb 2oz) agria or floury potatoes 2 large leeks 2 Tbsp butter (for leeks) 2 Tbsp standard flour 1¼ cups light stock Salt to taste Freshly ground black pepper to taste Olive oil 100g (3½ oz) medium-firm chorizo, sliced (optional) 1 medium-sized smoked fish, or 2-3 cups flaked smoked fish 2 Tbsp butter (for purée) ½-¾ cup whole milk, heated ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese 1 Tbsp capers, chopped ½ cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped 2 Tbsp snipped chives 2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley Finely grated zest 1 lemon 2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Peel potatoes, cut into large chunks and cook in gently boiling salted water until tender. While they are cooking, get on with the other ingredients.
2 Trim leeks top and bottom then split down the length with a sharp knife. Wash leeks thoroughly under running water then chop. Melt butter in a large saucepan and add the leeks. Cover the pan with a lid and once cooking momentum kicks in, cook gently for about 15 minutes, or until tender, shaking the pan once or twice to make sure the leeks are not catching. Stir in flour, then stock. Bring to a gentle bubble, then cook gently, stirring, for 1 minute. Season with half a teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Turn off the heat and keep pan covered. Preheat oven to 190°C (370°F).
3 Fry the chorizo briefly in a hot oiled firing pan (skillet), until lightly browned on both sides. Transfer to a side plate lined with paper towels.
4 Remove fish from bones, trying to keep it in chunks, discarding skin, scales and bones.
5 When the potatoes are tender, drain into a colander and leave to dry off for a few minutes. Return potatoes to saucepan and mash with a potato masher. Beat in butter and enough hot milk to make a fluffy but firmish purée. Season with salt and flavour with half the parmesan cheese. Taste – it should taste so delicious that you want to eat the lot! If it tastes a bit flat, add a little more salt.
6 Drain capers and olives on paper towels, then chop coarsely. Transfer to pan of leeks along with chorizo, chives, parsley and lemon zest and mix in. Fold in smoked fish with a large spoon – give it no more than 2-3 stirs or it will collapse into shreds.
7 Transfer mixture to a medium-sized ovenproof pie or gratin dish. Spoon potato purée on top and swirl it into a rustic shape with a fork. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and drizzle with melted butter. Bake pie for 25-30 minutes, or until golden on top. Serve hottish.
I put a baking tray (sheet) underneath the pie dish in case of any spillage.
The filling can be assembled ahead but cool the leeks completely before mixing with the fish and other ingredients. The whole pie can be prepared ahead, and kept refrigerated, but it must be brought to room temperature before cooking, and it may need a little longer in the oven to cook.
Read the tips on making potato purée before starting the recipe. Potato Purée