I was visiting a friend recently and found her in the kitchen practically mopping her brow from sweat as she finished off making a huge batch preparation of fish pie for her kids. As she removed a large pot of mashed potato, I mucked in to help portion it out on top of the twenty or so ramekins she had already filled with her delectable fish pie mix. Each one was then covered in silver foil, dated with a sticker and put in the freezer. This was real Super Mum behaviour and I suddenly felt very inferior knowing there were no ramekins gracing my own freezer shelves!
So, I went home that evening determined to do the same, but I knew that if I was going to freeze 20 portions of anything it would have to be something my kids would love – a tasty meal that could be whipped out of the freezer to save the day! I looked up a lot of fish pie recipes, many of which suggest adding in extra things such as cooked eggs and even tomatoes, dill and fresh parsley, but I wasn’t convinced that any of these would be the life-saver I was looking for. I also wanted to emanate my friend, but didn’t want to spend a day in the kitchen and use all my kitchen utensils in the process. So I came up with a version that I call ‘cheat’s fish pie’ as I take a terribly lazy approach to this recipe, but feel it is definitely all the better for it.
I don’t source the different cuts of fish separately, but instead buy several packets of the fish pie mix that you can find in the large supermarkets. The big cheat is that I don’t spend hours making mashed potato either – I buy good quality ready mashed potato, which has no added salt, just cream and butter. This is the big time-saver and it’s also far more creamy and delicious than any mash I can make and easy to portion out.
3 x 400g packets of fish pie mix (cod, salmon and smoked haddock)
2 x 400g packets of ready mashed potato (no added salt)
150g Frozen peas
Grated cheddar cheese
50g plain flour
Heat a tablespoon of rapeseed oil in a large saucepan and add the fish to cook. After about 5 minutes you can throw in the frozen peas too. After another 5 minutes, drain the juices from the pan and set the fish aside. In a separate saucepan make the white sauce. Melt 50g of butter and cream together with 50g of plain flour, taking it off the heat briefly to do so. Then set on a high heat and rapidly stir in the milk, adding only a little at a time to avoid lumps and stirring all the while. Add a teaspoon of ground nutmeg and two teaspoons of dried parsley. Although fresh parsley could be nice I have just found that the children pick it out, but dried parsley does improve the flavour but goes unnoticed. You can now add this to the fish and peas and portion out.
Using these amounts I usually have enough for one sizeable family (of 4) fish pie to eat the same day and then about 8 ramekins to freeze. Add a generous portion of grated cheddar on top of the mashed potato if you are cooking on the same day, and cook for 30 minutes at 180 degrees (Fan oven) until bubbling and the cheese is melted and slightly browned. If the kids are in the kitchen, then this is the stage at which they can help, assuming the fish pie mix isn’t still piping hot. They can be great mashed potato divider uppers and cheese sprinklers! This recipe has been such a success. The only problem is that the kids usually want seconds, so I have had to find larger ramekins!
Tip: Once you have frozen with the mashed potato on top, then you can cook directly from frozen, in about 40 minutes, but remove after 15 minutes and add the cheese. If you are short of mashed potato then you can freeze without mash, cook from frozen for 15 minutes, then take out from the oven and then add both the mash and the cheese. I serve with steamed broccoli on the side.