Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Christmas and fish pie (again)

I wouldn't say that I was panicking about Christmas - Dr O has put paid to the worst of my anxieties (and at only £120 an hour! Bargain!) - but I would say that it was definitely on my mind.

We are having everyone here. And when I say everyone I mean two sets of parents, two sisters, two infants, two cousins an aunt and an uncle. It adds up to 14 people. The fact that we don't have enough chairs for that many people is the least of my problems. I don't think we have enough glasses, either. Or cutlery.

We're so worried about the food that we are having a practise run on November 30th. We are doing the whole thing - brining the turkey, bread sauce, roast potatoes, the lot. I might even take the opportunity to put up a few Christmas decs to see how they look. I'm going for a very barnyard theme this year - all brown twine and chipped red jingle bells - you know the sort of thing I mean No tinsel, perhaps a bit controversially. I hate tinsel.

So I will report back after November 30th with top tips on how it all went.

For now, because I promised, I wanted to run through a childrens' fish pie recipe for a reader who requested it.

People make a lot of fuss about giving children fish pie - they think it's so marvellous and middle-class; but I do think that some children don't like it. Or at least don't like some elements of it. Very fishy fish, like salmon, is often not especially appreciated. And a proper fish pie is made with smoked haddock, which is very salty - so you might want to leave that out if you're touchy about stuff like that.

Personally, I make mine as bland as possible. When I was little I never, ever had to eat anything I didn't want to. I literally lived on baked beans, alphabites, scrambled eggs and spaghetti bolognese. My mother has a theory that small children can't digest brassicas (spinach, broccoli) very well and so that's why they don't like them. I'm not going to say anything pathetic like "It never did me any harm" because who knows?! But certainly I am very grateful to my mother for not being an "eat up your veg" nag. And I don't have a problem with vegetables now.

Anyway, I'm drifting.

Any fish pie is simply fish poached in a white sauce and covered with mashed potato or pastry and that's it. Anything else you add is entirely up to you and frankly, although it's not for me to tell you what to do with your child, I would be guided by any preference my child shows - eg parsley or no parsley, egg or no egg. I don't think you're supposed to give babies shellfish under a year but thereafter you could chuck in some brown shrimp. Yummy.

So the contents of a fish pie might look like this:

(makes several freezable portions)
1 quantity of white sauce (for recipe see "How to make a white sauce" - on this blog) - about 3/4 of a pint
1 quantity assorted white fish, eg haddock/cod/scallops - smoked fish if you want, salmon if you want
a few mushrooms if you like
2 eggs

1 Make the white sauce.

2 Chop up the fish into small chunks - about the size of dice (depending on child's age of course) and then plop into the white sauce. Let this stew together over a low flame for 15 minutes.

3 Hard-boil and chop your eggs, if using. Dice your mushrooms, if using, and throw those in too.

4 Decant this mixture into your bowls for freezing and top with either pastry or mashed potato. On re-heating defrost and cook for a good 25 minutes.


  1. I don't remember eating fish pie as a child but I do have very early memories of kedgeree - lovely smoked cod, hard boiled eggs, lots of yellow rice and utterly vital chopped parsley. Yum! Still love it.

  2. Oh, your childhood menu is much the same as mine, except for the beans. You cant buy alphabites anymore, I have looked. Must have been just us eating them as none of my friends ever had them!

  3. I hate tinsel too.
    Sounds good to me, and I'm not thinking of making it for a child.

  4. I used to love fish pie... Although not a massive fan of creamy potato-ey things now. Do you have any good pasta, noodle or pudding recipes?

  5. My older daughter point blank refuses anything except sausages and yoghurt; I am trying not to let this worry me. I will give your fish pie a bash, it might work. The little one will eat the lot though, she has no food worries.

  6. I did make fish pie once or twice for my first two, but by the time no.3 arrived I pretty much stopped as I couldn't bear the waste and the picking bits out!
    I remember being well into my boil in the bag cod in parsley sauce as a kid of he 70s. Actually, wouldn't mind trying it again now for old times sake.
    I may make it again now though as my youngest is now 4 and loves prawns :)

  7. I hate tinsel too, except for the smell... I love the smell... am I weird? My advice about Christmas is 'turn to Delia'... her complete cookery course has the best tips and recipes for the perfect, traditional, slightly dull but very British Christmas... and if you follow it to the letter, you cannot fail!

  8. Laura I love boil in the bag cod and parsley sauce. We used to have it all the time, with brown rice. It was delicious.


  9. I hate tinsel too! Also - I couldn't bear any green vegetables as a child, and any member of the brassica family made me gag. I'll eat them all now - I went to work in a busy hotel restaurant as a teenager and learned to love all sorts of food that was served to us as leftovers.

  10. Thanks for the fish pie recipe Esther, much appreciated! Looking forward to trying it.

    Oh, tinsel is GRIM. Especially the stuff from the pound shop that has a sort of tinny squeak to it. Good luck for your Christmas run-through!

  11. I was exactly the same with vegetables, and my mother never forced me to eat anything I didn't want to. And yes, I was a weird child, and awkward to take to restaurants, and would pick every tiny square of onion out of my bolognese, but by the age of about 17 I snapped out of it and now I'm one of the most unfussy eaters I know. And there are a few things I don't like still. And that's fine.

    Both mother and ex-boyfriend were forced to sit at a table long after the meal had finished to eat their unwanted food (to eat cabbage stalks by their teacher for the former, to eat egg whites by their father for the latter). Both are still phobic of their respective foods to this day.

  12. In contrast to everyone else I actually like tinsel, especially as a kid, when my mum would make me costumes for the Nativity plays at my Primary School. I liked the different colours and the way is was so shiny. And when I read the word 'alphabites' I thought you meant alphabetti spaghetti. So I looked up what alphabites are, and I found this funny advert for it, if anyone wants to watch it: Great blog too Esther. xx

  13. Oh damn, I just re-read my comment and I noticed that I put 'is was so shiny' instead of 'it was...'. x

  14. You can buy 'own brand' alphabites from Sainsbury's. I was incredibly excited when I found them (chips! And educational!).

  15. Mine won't touch fish pie, even the very plain Jamie Oliver one without the spinach added. BUT they love salmon done in a foil parcel in the oven with noodles and some brocolli which is not far from the constituent parts of fish pie...
    And they are begging me to buy tinsel this year, being without taste as all children are. I'm mean and keep saying 'no.'. Bad mother.

  16. A practice run for Christmas dinner? You guys are beyond organised, I'm uber impressed :)

  17. I hope the pre-Christmas thing doesn't put you off... that's why its a year until the next time. Like having babies, you forget sobbing into giblet prepping for gravy and just remember grandpa pissed and sniggering at the end of the table and grandma looking on in disgust!! Well in our house anyway. We've taken to calling the "head of the table chair" the Pissed Spot as every year the person seated their, well.. you get the drift. Husband wants it this year but he's not getting it.
    My girls eat most, or at least do try most things. I tend to sling whatever it is in and if they don't like it fine. But the sieving yoghurt went on for bloody years.