Brixton Village is blessed with two excellent fishmongers, Ilias’ Fish (formerly Dagon’s) and L & J Fishmongers. This market has long been associated with fish and people come from far and wide to buy wet fish and seafood here. Not only is the fish always incredibly fresh, but there is also a wonderful selection.
I often make fish pie to show this catch off to friends more used to supermarket counter fish. Over the years, the recipe has evolved to this version made with fresh, salt and smoked fish, a topping of mashed eddoes and potatoes and a light, yet rich sauce flavoured with palm wine. I enjoy spending an afternoon making it and everyone always asks for seconds.
Start by soaking your salt cod. Soak it in cold water overnight, changing the water at least once, or pour boiling water over it and leave for 30 minutes.
Now make your fish stock. Use the prawn shells, any bones from the white fish and the fish heads. Add the stalks from your parsley. Cover it all with the water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down immediately and simmer for 25–30 minutes, skimming any froth from the surface. It should reduce down to about 500ml.
Once the fish stock is ready, strain it through a sieve to remove any debris. Set the fish heads to one side and, once they’re cool enough to handle, remove any flesh. Pour the stock back into a pan and lower both the white and smoked fish into it. Poach on a low heat for 5–7 minutes and then remove the fish carefully. Reserve the stock.
Flake the cooked fish into a large bowl and add any flesh from the fish head. Drain the salt cod and flake it apart with your fingers. Combine with the cooked fish, then toss the peeled prawns in and season.
Peel the eddoes and potatoes and cut them into even chunks. Put them in a pan, cover with cold water, and then bring to the boil, cooking them for about 10–15 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, melt half of the butter in a medium saucepan and add the chopped anchovies. Cook for a minute or two, then stir in the flour and cook for 1–2 minutes more to make a roux. Pour in 100ml of the milk, stirring constantly, and then the palm wine, and then the fish stock in increments. Keep stirring all the time and you should end up with a smooth creamy white sauce.
Add the white sauce to the bowl of fish and mix gently, tossing in the chopped parsley and capers (if using) too. Pour the whole lot into an ovenproof serving dish.
Drain the potatoes and eddoes and allow them to sit and dry off for a minute or two in a sieve or colander. Tip them back into the pan and mash well until almost smooth. Heat the remaining 50ml of milk and beat it into the mash with 25g of the butter (hot milk makes the mash creamier than cold). Beat the mash until smooth and then spoon and spread it over the fish so it’s completely covered. Run the tines of a fork over the mash to create ridges and dot the top with the remaining butter.
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