Whitby is a charming, seaside village in north Yorkshire. Although we have visited quite a few times, there’s no real reason for most people to have heard of Whitby … unless you’ve followed the career of Captain Cook or have read Bram Stoker’s novel DRACULA. Actually, quite a few literary geniuses have lived or visited Whitby during their careers. In addition to Bram Stoker, you may have heard of Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell or Lewis Carroll among many others. Today, tourism is what keeps this quiet, little fishing village alive … well, that and “fish pie”.
As with most regional recipes, it comes down to whatever is available, and whatever the cook decides to do with it. In Whitby, it’s the ‘catch of the day’. For me, it was a quick trip to the grocery store, after which I decided to use cod. And pulling from my bookshelf of resources, it was Paul Hollywood’s BRITISH BAKING which inspired this beloved regional dish.
I was a bit hesitant … not all of my attempts at Hollywood’s recipes have been successful … but this one certainly was. We all loved it. A hearty, satisfying dish, flavorful and delicious. Perfect for a Sunday supper on a wintry night. Serve it up with a tossed green salad and bottle of white wine. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
WHITBY FISH PIE
Serves 6 to 8. Bake at 425º for 30 to 40 mins.
The crust (or purchase a pre-made pastry crust)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup icy cold water
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 diced white onion
2 stalked celery, diced
2 cups spinach, washed and chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 lbs. solid white fish, skinned, cubed
2 boiled potatoes, peeled and cubed (optional)
1 egg, beaten
I know after reading this list of ingredients, it seems like a lot of time and work, but it really isn’t. We all know a good pie starts with a good crust. They are super easy, but if you don’t feel comfortable making one, store bought crusts have come a long way.
When ready to cook, make the filling in one large saucepan, beginning with a roux, adding leftover cooked potatoes if you have them. Dump it all into a large pie plate or casserole. Then top it with the pie crust and bake for about 40 minutes. Done!
To make the crust:
Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add the chilled butter and cut in until the flour resembles coarse crumbs. Add the beaten egg and, with a fork, mix together quickly adding the cold water as needed …
OR … put all the dry ingredients in your food processor and pulse for 10 seconds. Add the cubed butter and pulse for another 10 seconds. Add the beaten egg and as much water as needed to hold it together and pulse for a final 10 seconds.
Whichever method you use, when it comes together, turn out on a floured board and form a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
In a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. When melted, stir in the 1/2 cup of flour and cook til all combined. Slowly add the milk and whisk until smooth and creamy. This will take two to three minutes. Season with cloves, salt and pepper.
Next, stir in the diced onions and celery. The heat should be medium to low. Then add the chopped spinach and parsley. Taste to adjust the seasoning. You may need to add a bit more salt.
Add the cubed fish and fold in gently. You don’t want to break the fish up. If you have leftover boiled potatoes, add them now … or any leftover veggies you may have. Turn off the heat and dump everything into a large casserole or pie plate.
Take the pastry out of the frig and, on a lightly floured board, roll it out to fit the casserole or pie plate. Be sure to cut an air hole in the center of the pastry for the steam to escape.
Brush the edges of the casserole with water or the beaten egg and put the pastry crust on top. Press the pastry onto the rim of the dish to adhere. Decorate as you’d like, or not. Brush the beaten egg all over the pastry crust.
Be sure to put the casserole onto a baking tray to catch any spillage … and there will be spillage. Bake at 425º for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
Take it out of the oven and serve right away. A simple green salad and glass of white wine … maybe some crusty bread, perfect! This is an old-fashioned supper dish and it doesn’t disappoint. WHITBY FISH PIE … a steaming pie full of goodness and nutrition. If you make it, please let me know.
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References: Wikipedia, Visit Whitby, Paul Hollywood,