Russian Fish Pie

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Executive Chef
Nov 16, 2004

This is a recipe that my mum used to make - for some unknown reason she called it 'Russian Fish Pie' - I suppose that it does, vaguely resemble Koulbiac... so maybe that's the basis for the dish 8)

Ingredients for pastry
8 oz plain flour
6 oz butter
pinch of salt
Ice cold water (a few fluid oz)

Beaten egg, to glaze pastry
Baking sheet measuring 14 x 11 inches

Fish filling
12 oz white fish, such as haddock or cod
4 oz prawns
1 oz butter
2 level tablespoons plain flour
12-15 fl oz milk
1 level tablespoon capers, drained and chopped (I use capers in brine)
4 small cornichon or small gherkins, drained and chopped
2 level tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped (not too small)
salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste

To make the pastry, weigh out 6 oz butter then wrap it in a piece of foil and return it to the freezer or freezing compartment of the fridge for 30-45 minutes. When you want to make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Take the butter out of the freezer, fold back the foil and hold it in the foil, which will protect it from your warm hands. Grate the butter, using the coarse side of a grater placed in the bowl over the flour, dipping the edge of the butter into the flour several times to make it easier to grate. You should end up with is a large pile of grated butter sitting in the middle of the flour.

Take a palette knife and start to distribute the gratings into the flour – don't use your hands yet, just keep trying to coat all the pieces of fat with flour. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of cold water all over, continue to use the palette knife to bring the whole thing together, and finish off using your hands. If it still seems dry, you may to add a little more water but the dough should come together and leaves the bowl fairly clean, with no bits of loose butter or flour anywhere. Put this pastry it into a plastic food bag and chill for 30 minutes before using.

Place the fish in a medium-sized saucepan with just enough milk to cover, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 5-10 minutes. When it's cooked, strain off the milk into a measuring jug, and when the fish is cool enough to handle, flake it into large pieces, getting rid of the bones and skin. Leave aside to cool.

Melt the butter in the same saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook for about 2 minutes over a medium heat, then gradually add 10 fl oz of the milk the fish was cooked in, stirring all the time. Bring the sauce to the boil, simmer gently for 6 minutes, then take the pan off the heat and add the flaked fish, prawns, chopped capers, gherkins, parsley and eggs. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Cover and leave until the mixture is cold.

Pre heat the oven to gas mark 7. Roll out the pastry to about (approx) 12 inches square, trimming if necessary. Lift the square on to the greased baking sheet, then place the cold fish mixture in the centre. Glaze around the edge of the pastry with beaten egg, then pull the opposite corners of the pastry to the centre and pinch all the edges together firmly, so you have a square with pinched edges in the shape of an 'X'. Glaze with beaten egg and decorate with any pastry trimmings which you can cut into leaf shapes. Glaze the decorations as well, and then bake the pie for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is well risen and golden in colour.

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