Fish, to taste right, must swim three times –
in water, in butter, and in wine.
~ Proverb ~
Fish. Not always a popular menu item unless it’s deep-fried in beer batter. I know there are many places in the world where fish is the staple source of protein and there are dozens of delicious recipes. Having lived my life in Pretoria however, fish has never really been the first choice on a menu for me. Living more than 600km away from the nearest sea just means that our choice of fresh fish is smaller. I really love ordering fish and other seafood when visiting seaside towns and cities. But we end up generally only cooking frozen fish at home. So I needed something other than beer-battered fish to try. A traditional British dish, fish pie is usually made with a variety of fish (often smoked) and delicious mashed potato. What’s not to like? Especially if you turn it into Sweet Potato Fish Pie!
Not fishy at all
I think I first saw fish pie made by Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein on cooking programmes. When I was eventually ready to try making it, I looked up some recipes online, but the final recipe is really my own concoction. The lack of fish options in my local shops made it difficult to follow the British recipes as they had lots of different fish in theirs. Eventually, I created this recipe with the fish I normally buy – frozen white fish. I also used my daughter’s suggestion of replacing normal mashed potato with sweet potato mash and it really works! So my humble Sweet Potato Fish Pie is definitely not authentic or traditional – just very tasty!
The big thaw
When making beer-battered fish, I often leave the fish frozen or just thaw it halfway. The fish cooks so quickly in the hot oil that there is not much chance of it getting watery. But for fish pie, it’s a different story. My Sweet Potato Fish Pie is basically cooked fish, covered in a creamy vegetable sauce and topped with sweet potato mash and cheese. This is then baked in the oven till you get a delicious, golden pie. If you use frozen fish without cooking it first, you stand a good chance of having a soggy, watery mess at the bottom of your pie. So I thaw the frozen fish and cook it for a few minutes by poaching it in milk. No soggy bottoms here! And even though my fish doesn’t swim through butter and wine, I think creamy sauce and cheesy mash is the next best thing!
Sweet Potato Fish Pie
- 6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled You can leave the peels on if you prefer
- 1 kg frozen white fish Cape whiting is my favourite, Hake will do fine
- 1,5 c milk
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 bell pepper, sliced colour of your choice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic (crushed)
- 150 g mushrooms, sliced
- 4 baby marrows (zucchini), sliced
- ½ c cream or sour cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 c cheddar cheese, grated
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Cut the sweet potatoes into chunks and boil in salted water until tender. Once cooked, mash the sweet potatoes and keep it warm.
- Place the fish portions in a large pan and add the milk. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 10 minutes on medium heat.
- Remove fish portions from the pan and place them in a greased ovenproof dish. Keep the milk that the fish was cooked in.
- Fry the onions and peppers in the olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic, mushrooms and baby marrows and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add ½ a cup of the reserved milk and the cream to the vegetables and cook until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper. You can add some of the grated cheese to your vegetable sauce if you want to. If your white sauce is very thin, thicken it by mixing 1 t of flour or corn starch with a ¼ cup of cold water to make a slurry and add the slurry to your sauce. Cook for a few minutes until the sauce thickens.
- Spoon the creamy vegetable sauce over the fish portions in the oven dish.
- Top with the mashed sweet potato, spreading the mash evenly. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 20 minutes until golden and bubbly.
- Serve hot with steamed vegetables or a salad.
- You don't really need to add butter or milk to the sweet potatoes when you mash them as they are not as starchy as potatoes, but a little bit of butter will add to the flavour! You could also use some of the poaching milk once you have measured out what you need for your sauce.