When Andrew McConnell first took over the Builders Arms Hotel with business partners Anthony Hammond and head chef Josh Murphy, they asked their friends what they wanted to see on a pub menu. The answer: pie.
The Builders Arms Hotel breaks away from the predictable beef option by serving this aromatic fish pie. "Writing a menu for a pub was something really new to both of us" says Murphy. "We were trying to work out how to incorporate a fish dish into the menu and we'd always toyed with the idea of a fish pie."
The fish pie was on the first menu when the Builders reopened at the start of autumn 2012. "We expected to take it off in summer but we just couldn't, it was too popular." admits Murphy. "It's made it through multiple summers now and I don't think we'll ever take it off."
According to one English customer fluent in fish pies, there's a rule of thumb when eating one (which Murphy concurs): take the lid off, drop the chips in and then scoop them out with a fork to maximise the juices.
1 packet puff pastry (or enough to cover your chosen dishes)
300g ocean trout fillet, skin removed, cut into 6cm-long pieces
6 green 'U6' prawns, peeled and halved (or 500-600g whole green prawns, peeled)
950g rockling fillet, skin removed, cut into 6cm-long pieces
12 large sorrel leaves, torn
1/2 cup chopped dill
Zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp capers, chopped
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp olive oil
3 brown onions, finely sliced
1 large fennel bulb, cored and finely sliced
5 prawn heads
180ml white wine
300g potatoes, peeled and sliced
625ml chicken stock
185ml thickened cream
Freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce, heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion, garlic and fennel until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Add the prawn heads and cook until pink, about 3-4 minutes. Increase the heat, deglaze the pan with the wine and simmer for 3-4 minutes until almost totally reduced. Add the potatoes and stock and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender and the stock has reduced by two-thirds, about 15-20 minutes. Add the cream, bring the mixture to the boil and turn off the heat. Remove the prawn heads, tip the mix into a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the sauce and season to taste.
Preheat the oven to 190°C fan forced (210°C conventional).
Cut shapes out of the puff pasty to top the pies with - use one of the pie dishes (500ml ramekins will work well for this) as a template, just be sure to cut the pastry about 1cm wider than the dish all the way around.
Divide the seafood, herbs, lemon zest and capers between the pie dishes. Spoon about 200ml of the sauce into each dish and stir to distribute easily. Dampen the edge of the bowls with a little water and place the pastry lids on top. Press the pastry lightly onto the dishes and brush with a little beaten egg. Pierce a couple of holes in the top of each pie to let the steam escape and bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden and the fish is cooked.
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