Unfortunately smoked fish does get a bad wrap, mainly due its association with those horrendously fluorescent orange things we see lurking about in fish counters. But just look at that beautiful smoked haddock, the colour is subtle from real smoking, nothing has been added.
Before you can use the smoked haddock it needs to be poached in milk to soften so it can be flaked. It's important not to overcook the fish and in this case you need to slightly under cook it as it will finish cooking in the pie. As the fillet has a varying thickness, I've cut it into four pieces - the intention is that each piece will be of the same thickness, making it easier to remove the thinner pieces first and ultimately get a better result.
Now the milk used for poaching has absorbed those lovely smoky haddock flavours and will be used to create a sauce to bind the pie filling together. I've also added leeks, corn and peas to the filling - these all have defined flavour but they all live in harmony with the smoked haddock. I think it's that element of sweetness that these ingredients have that really brings it all together.
[Makes 4 pies]
1 smoked haddock fillet
50 grams butter
50 grams cornflour
1 leek, cut into small dice
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
shortcrust pastry, for bases
puff pastry, for lids
Prepare the smoked haddock:
Place the fillet pieces into a saucepan and pour in enough milk so that the pieces are fully submerged. Put the pot on a low heat and simmer very gently. Poach until the fish just begins to soften - the thinner piece will be removed first, while the thicker piece will be removed last. Remember to keep the poaching milk for the sauce.
Flake the fish from the skin, removing any bones - place this prepared fish in the fridge until ready to be used.
Prepare the vegetables:
Melt a knob of butter in a skillet over a low heat, add in the sliced leeks and cook slowly until softened but not coloured. Tumble in the corn kernels and peas, stir well and cook for a couple of minutes. Set to one side.
Make the sauce:
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, add in cornflour and stir well until smooth. Pour in about ½ cup of the reserved milk and whisk well to remove any lumps. As soon as it has thickened add in another ½ cup of the reserved milk. Continue whisking and repeating the process.
You may find that you either won't need to add all the milk or have to add more milk - the most important thing to keep in mind when making the white sauce is that you have cooked out the flour.
Once the sauce is made add in the prepared vegetables, stirring them gently. This mixture needs to be cold before you use it as a pie filling so store it in the fridge until ready to make the pie.
Assemble the pie:
Line 4 pie tins with shortcrust pastry - if you prefer you could make one large pie instead.
Remove the filling from the fridge - give the vegetable and white sauce mixture a stir to slacken and then add in the flaked fish and a handful of chopped parsley. Carefully fold this through being careful not to break up the fish pieces.
Spoon the filling out to fill the four pie cases. Resist the temptation to pack the mixture in.
Cut 4 lids from the puff pastry. Brush the rim of the shortcrust bases with milk and place the puff pastry over the top. Press the two pastry edges together - run around the edge, using a thumb and fore-finger to ensure a good seal then decorate the edge using a fork to crimp the edge.
Brush the lid with milk and finally, cut an opening in the center of the pie. If not cooking immediately, store in a sealed container in the fridge.
Bake in a preheated 170°C oven until the pastry is golden and the filling has heated through - these individual pies take about 25-35 minutes.
Serve with steamed vegetables, a salad or even fries.