STAR GAZY PIE
The iconic, traditional recipe from the West of Cornwall, around Mousehole, celebrating Tom Bawcock’s Eve on December 23rd. He was supposedly a fisherman of the 16thC but in reality there is little evidence that he existed. But it makes a good story none the less, and the dish is steeped in history and legend. It is generally accepted that the original Pies used herring, but then moved to any of 7 fish, including pilchards, sardines, mackerel, herring etc, keeping in line with the legend! Probably it was whatever was available, depending on the weather and season.
I have read and researched recipes for some weeks and think I will adapt a mix of many of those I have read about, into something that seems about right to me and tasty by today’s standards. I have never made it before, or eaten it. I took lots of photos along the way and they are on my Blog. To serve, just remove the head and tails sticking out and you have the most delicious pie. Serve with a green veg.
Fish [assorted], stock, mustard, hard boiled eggs, potato, cream, cider or wine. Cider surely? Wine would have been costlier for our forebears. Seasoning, especially Sea Salt.
Parsley? Maybe, but I will not use it.
Make some Rough Puff Pastry. 8 oz Plain Flour, salt, 2 oz lard or Cookeen, 2 oz butter. Rub in roughly then mix with a little very cold water. Rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
I intend to fillet a selection of fish. Sardines, Mackerel, Herring. Then clean some of the heads and tails for the decoration, discarding them before serving. I have 3 large sardines, several herring and 2 mackerel. All cleaned and filleted and rolled or cut into large bite size pieces. I am prepping for a medium size pie. My pie dish is 9” in dia and 7 “ at the base. 2” deep.
Hard boil 2 or 3 eggs and when cold, chop. Chip [or dice?] two or three medium potatoes and par boil for 2 or 3 mins. I decide to dice for a change!
Make a sauce.
1 finely chopped shallot
scant tablespoon plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon of English mustard
Sea Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 oz butter
¼ pint fish stock [stock pot is fine]
¼ pint cider
¼ pint cream
In a small saucepan, quickly fry off the shallot in the melted butter, then add the flour and mix to a smooth paste, off the heat. Very gradually add the stock, whisking all the while. Add the remaining ingredients then replace back on the heat and bring slowly to the boil, continuing to whisk. Cook off for a minute.
Place the chunks of fish in the pie dish, and tuck between them the potato and chopped egg. Sprinkle over some chopped parsley, if using. Pour over the sauce and carefully fork through so everything is evenly distributed. Seasoned well. Allow to cool for 15 mins. Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out to fit the pie dish. Brush the edge with a little egg and place the pastry on the top. Cut little slits for the heads and slip the heads into them with their head looking towards the stars, with opposite slits for the tails. [see photos] Brush the top with beaten egg.
Bake for 45 mins at 210 Deg C. Turning down to 200 after 20 mins. Remove the heads from the crust before eating.
It was a lot of work, I admit. From starting it, to popping it into the oven was close to 2 hours!!! A bit mucky at times too!! But the finished result is stunning and it was absolutely delicious. I am quite pleased with myself!!!!