A Galician Inspired Fish Pie
The inspiration for this pie comes from the Empanadas they make in Galicia, which are baked in huge rectangular trays and made with an olive oil rich bread dough. They are usually filled with some sort of seafood, whether that be cod, sardines, tuna, or even cockles, along with favourite Spanish vegetables such as green peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes, slowly cooked in plenty of olive oil. You find these sorts of empanadas in the bars in Spain where they are served as a snack, always of course with a cold beer or glass of wine. In Galicia it would be served with the local Godello – a grape variety which makes a beautiful flinty and crisp white wine.
I thought it would be interesting to make a version of these pies using a filling of excellent, and more local ingredients (i.e. fish, leeks, onions and potatoes), all doused in good extra virgin olive oil, something of which Spaniards are gladly not afraid of using massive quantities.
This pie is designed to be served cold so you really need to use olive oil in the filling, as well as in the bread dough. A combination of butter and lard could be used to make a beautiful flaky pastry, as this is more traditional in Britain, but only to make a fish pasty to be served piping hot. As Rick Stein attests Cornish pasties are not only filled with beef; they can be filled with fish (as well as fruit for that matter) for this is often a cheaper option in a region where fish is plentiful, especially if you use an inexpensive fish such as coley or pollock. The beauty of using olive oil also means there isn’t the hassle of rubbing the fat into the flour, and this makes the dough very quick to make.
Using lots of olive oil like this doesn’t make food greasy; but unctuous and satisfying to eat, and of course the olive oil brings its own unique flavour to the dish. Cooks in southern Europe are not afraid to use plenty of salt either; something which the British seem to either be averse to or not realise this is what makes food so taste so good. Good simple food with few ingredients needs to be well seasoned.
The Galician Empanadas are often baked in huge rectangular trays before being cut into squares. I also like the idea of making a round one as this means everyone gets the same shape and size, rather than someone getting a good middle bit and another person getting a corner made entirely of crust.
If you make this big pie you can eat it over the course of a few days (you could take it to work for a convenient and filling lunch). But you really want to have it for lunch at the weekend so you can have a glass of wine with it. This fish pie is perfect picnic food. I have used smoked haddock in this pie. You could use fresh haddock, or the other inexpensive fish mentioned above. Another nice option could be to use salt ling, which goes so well with potatoes and onions. It is important the dough is rolled out quite thin – not only does this make the pie more delicate but it also ensures the fish isn’t completely overcooked by the time the crust is ready.
Recipe for the Fish Pie
For the Bread Dough
400g plain flour
1 tsp salt
100g extra virgin olive oil
5g fast action yeast
For the Filling
2 fillets of smoked haddock
300g potato such as Maris Piper (i.e. 2 medium sized potatoes)
1 medium sized onion
3 tbsp olive oil
1 – 2 tsp salt, or to taste
First make the bread dough by stirring the salt and yeast into the flour in a large bowl. Now pour in the olive oil and water and combine. Knead it just until you form a smooth dough (2 – 3 minutes). Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave it to rest for 1 – 2 hours until it has doubled in size.
Meanwhile make the filling. First prepare the leek by removing the top and tail, cut it in half lengthways and slice it thinly. To wash the leek I find the most efficient method is to put the sliced leek into a large bowl of cold water and plunge it a few times, then leave it alone for 10 minutes for all the dirt to settle to the bottom. Peel the potato and cut it into thin pieces about the thickness of a pound coin. Peel and slice the onion.
Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan and add the onion, potato and salt. When these are beginning to soften add the leek. Cook over a medium heat until everything is very soft, stirring frequently to stop everything sticking. While it is cooling cut up the smoked haddock into small chunks. Stir this through the vegetable mixture when it is cool enough not to cook the fish.
Now unwrap the dough and divide it in half. Roll out the first half into a rectangle (20cm x 30cm). Transfer this onto a large baking sheet lined with baking paper. Pile the filling onto this mixture leaving a 3cm gap round the sides. Paint the gap around the sides with beaten egg. Now roll out the other half and place this over the filling. Cut away any excess dough to create a neat rectangle. Press and crimp the edges to seal the two halves together, or create a series of folds to create a pretty pattern. It is nice to make decorative designs on the top of the pie with any excess pastry you have cut away. Make a few holes to allow steam to escape. Paint the pie with the beaten egg. Bake this in a 190˚C oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and is golden brown. When it is cooked transfer it on to a cooling rack to cool down.