Kai Ika Smoked Fish Pie

Turning your fish heads, wings and frames into Smoked Fish Pie is a great way to make the treasure go a long way, thus allowing for sharing with family and friends. Whilst this takes quite a bit of work, the end result more than justifies the effort. It is good value, really nourishing and above all, makes four sensational fish pies that look big enough for 5 or 6 people but really only enough for 4 people after the naughty second helpings invariably called for.  

The essence of this dish is utilising every last piece of the fish and combining this with any leftover stale bread that we accumulate in the freezer (for the garlicky, buttery crust). The utilisation doesn’t stop after the meat is removed, with the head, bones, skin and any leftovers used to produce the concentrated fish stock which carries the dish.

Recipe by: Janet Macindoe – Passed down to proud son Scott.
Prep Time:  60-90 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Feeds: 16 – 4 pies (scale up or down accordingly)
Difficulty: 4/5
Part of fish: Head, wings and frames. 

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 2kg of smoked fish meat
  • 2kg of potatoes skin on – lightly boiled and roughly mashed- leave some lumps
  • 2kg of kumara skin on – same as potatoes
  • 12 eggs hard boiled
  • 20 large stalks of parsley – finely chopped
  • 1kg frozen peas or mixed veges (if in doubt, use more).


The brew:

  • 300g of butter
  • 300g of flour
  • 1L of high octane smoked fish stock
  • 4 onions
  • A handful of finely chopped parsley.

Garlic bread crumb topping:

  • 2 – 3 bread bags of old stale bread and crusts
  • 2 bulbs of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 400g of butter
  • Heaps of ground black pepper
  • Zest of 4 large lemons.

Method:

The filling:

  1. After a good smoke of your heads, wings and frames (we use a 1:1 ratio of salt to sugar and smoke low and slow), strip the meat, avoiding scales like the plague. Have a bowl of water to constantly rinse your hands. Then go hunting those cheeks, lips and tasty morsels around the back of the head and out of the wings/collars.
  • All backbones, skins and skulls go in a pot for a good, hard boil up to produce the stock. You will need about 4 or 5 kgs of fish and add about 1L of water. The heads and frames will give plenty of volume (freeze any leftover stock). 45 minutes will do.
  • While the stock is on the boil, throw another pot on the stove and cook the flour into the butter to make the roux. Take your time, up to 10 to 15 minutes until you can ‘smell the biscuit’. Be careful not to let it get too dark or burnt. Then add the stock using a whisk to ensure no lumps. If too thick, add some more stock or milk. Be careful not to make it too runny. Add roughly chopped onions and a handful of chopped parsley and soften for a few minutes.
  • Using a food processor, blitz the bread into crumbs. Don’t be afraid if it is not all the same size this will add to the character of the pie. You’ll need around two large handfuls per pie. Put in a large bowl, mix in the rest of the parsley and pepper.
  • In a pot on a low heat, combine the crushed garlic and butter, stirring as it melts. Once the mixture is ready, pour it into the breadcrumbs and mix evenly. 

The assembly:

  • Once all the ingredients for the dish are prepared it is time to combine. Use the biggest bowl or pot in the house. Mix the frozen peas, potatoes, kumara, ‘the brew’, and fish meat. Be gentle. Try to retain the pieces of fish – think texture and personality. 
  • Butter the dishes well. Slice a few eggs for each pie and lay them on the bottom. Several handfuls of filling in each dish and then a nice generous topping of the bread crumb brew. Finish off with lemon zest and black pepper. Wrap in aluminium foil and into the fridge. Only gets better with a day or two rest.

Cooking:

  • Remove foil and into the oven at 160o for 30 minutes and then 10 minutes at 185o. The goal is a golden crust, be careful not to overcook the topping.

Serve with a slice or two of lemon. Most people we know want more. 

Wine Matching: Whitehaven – Kōparepare Gold Medal winning Pinot Noir Rose.