fish and fennel

serves 6

for the fish 600g skinless white fish or salmon, cut into roughly 3 cm chunks
Maldon sea salt
white pepper freshly ground
1 lime, finely grated rind, stained juice

for the fennel and leek 300g c/w fennel bulb, chopped roughly [1]
2 leeks, white only,very finely sliced
100g butter
20g fennel top finely chopped

pastry 500g Carême Puff Pastry or house-made puff

[1] Fennel bulbs vary so greatly in size this is the best way of doing it. When you purchase, remember even with the very best quality about 20% of the bulb will be for the compost.

go to recipe method pie assembly instructions are below.

for the Béchamel
1L full cream milk
50g p/w red onion, cut into quarters
2 whole cloves
2g whole white pepper
1/2 bay leaf
25g parsley stalks

150g unsalted butter
100g plain flour
7g Maldon
2g black pepper, freshly and coarsely ground
100g coarsely grated mozzarella cheese

AO 30 MAY 20

the easiest

The French lidded pie is a favourite because everything is done ‘in advance’ and the number you make are only governed by the size of your oven. Puff pastry is a must but what a show girl?  Once cooked 35-45 minutes @ 180°C they will hold hot for 10-15 minutes before serving provided you keep the oven door slightly ajar. We love the classic ‘Lion bowls’ that are still available from Pillivuyt but after many years we only have a couple left and most often use soufflé dishes. There has been the resurrection of old-style enamel pie dishes which are also great for lidded pies.

Watch the video which makes very clear how to make this style of pie… here


  • Pastry [all types] is best rolled and rested at least 30 minutes before assembling and is always better when rested in the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking. Longer is better.
  • The pie filling must always be COLD.
  • With the exception of the lidded French style pie it is best if the fillings are not too wet. One also needs to remember that most sauces including béchamel become more liquid as they heat.
  • Foils are great for traditional pies with pastry tops and bottoms. Putting a few slits in them and cooking the pies standing on a rack really helps getting a crisp bottom. A traditional commercial pie often has a different pastry that is less likely to go soggy on the bottom and a different pastry lid.
  • We love silicon forms…no rusting can go in the dishwasher and better still last for years. Because most of our pastry recipes are butter or fat rich using a hole punch to punch some small holes in the bottom of your form that are solely used for pastry is an excellent idea.
  • Metal pie forms that are not enameled are precious, I have some belonging to my Great Grandmother that must be over 100 years old and some other forms made by my Grandfather Quinn. Making specialised forms for baking is a tradition that continues to this day in our family. It used to make me so angry when working in restaurants that no one took proper care of them. They require special washing and must be thoroughly dried before putting away. A 200°C oven is great and when they are cold again, I carefully wrap them in plastic, and sometimes vac those forms that may only be used once a year. Some, where, nothing has spilled onto them, do not require washing and instead are wiped with a clean tea towel.


for the Béchamel
Put everything to the line into a saucepan and on low heat bring to the boil.
Immediately turn off the heat and set a timer for 30 minutes. When the timer goes, strain, pressing hard against the onion to get all of the juices and when you are ready to finish the béchamel re-heat the infused milk.

Put the butter into a pan and place it on medium heat. When the butter foams add the flour, salt and pepper and stir with a whisk to cook out the flour but do not allow it to colour.

This is really important because unless the flour roux is cooked out properly and the béchamel allowed to boil once the liquid has been added the béchamel will always have a floury back taste.

Add the milk a little at a time, boil gently constantly stirring for two to three minutes. Add the mozzarella, stir through and remove the béchamel from the heat. Allow to cool completely [do not refrigerate] before assembling the pie filling.

for the fish
Mix everything except the lime juice, which is only added just before assembling the pies.

for the fennel and leek
Starting with the leek, sauté it in the butter with the seasonings until it is cooked and very lightly coloured, add the fennel and stir into the leek. Turn off the heat.

Mix the leek and fennel and fennel top into the béchamel.

Using half of the fennel béchamel divide it between your six dishes. Add the lime juice to the fix, mix it through and divide it between your dishes.

Blanket with the remaining fennel béchamel. Chill completely before completing the lid.

proceed with the pastry, cover with Freezer-Go-Between and refrigerate until ready to cook. You can roll out the Carême pastry out slightly.

we never keep raw fish pies for more than 24 hours. If you want a longer leeway, smoke the fish.