How To Make Russell Norman's Fish Pie

Esquire's food and drink columnist shares a recipe to warm your cockles this autumn

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In the food world there have been some tasty spats between chefs claiming copycat tendencies in rivals. Who can forget Donald Trump's inauguration cake, an exact replica of the one made four years previously for Barack Obama by star baker Duff Goldman? The plagiarist in this instance, Tiffany MacIsaac, admitted ripping off Goldman, but in her defence revealed that Trump had demanded an exact copy. Now why doesn't that surprise me?

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In the UK, award-winning London restaurant Flat Iron, a brilliantly conceived steakhouse, was left flabbergasted last year when a Manchester restaurant opened its doors offering an identical menu, using identical tableware, same serving boards, same plates, same signature cleaver, identical wording, same pricing... the similarities were breath-taking. But the copycat steakhouse, Featherblade, denied any wrongdoing. With remarkable chutzpah, it claimed the identical ideas were all its own and any similarity was a coincidence. Twitter went mental. A couple of national restaurant critics demanded a boycott. (Google it and see what you think.)

Which brings me to this month's recipe. It's classic, like all my offerings this year, but I've stolen it. That's right, I'm a plagiarist, pure and simple, and the person I've ripped off is my wife. It's her recipe for fish pie, because when something is as good as this, you don't try to improve it. You just copy it.

Mrs Norman's fish pie

Serves four

• 750g Maris Piper potatoes • 300g mixed salmon, haddock and smoked pollock fillets • 250g large prawns • 2 hard-boiled eggs, halved • 500ml whole milk • 100g salted butter • 50g plain flour • Small bunch of parsley, chopped • Grated nutmeg • Flaky sea salt • Ground black pepper

Method

1. Peel, quarter and boil the potatoes for mash. Meanwhile, poach the fish and prawns in the milk for about 10mins. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fish and prawns from the milk and set aside. Flake the fish into uneven chunks. Keep the milk for the next step.

2. Make a white sauce by melting half the butter in a large, heavy pan and slowly stirring in flour to create a paste. Heat gently until it's golden brown. Now, very slowly and gradually, stir in the fishy milk you used for poaching. Keep the heat low so the milk doesn't boil. Keep adding milk and stirring until the flour and butter mixture is completely blended with the milk in a velvety sauce. Grate in a little nutmeg at this point. Now add the chopped parsley, a good pinch of salt and a twist of black pepper, and fold in the fish and prawns.

3. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Add the remaining butter and a good pinch of salt to your potatoes and mash them thoroughly or pass them through a ricer. If you have a little fishy milk left you can add this too. Spread the fish, prawn and white sauce mixture in an ovenproof dish. Place the four egg halves into the mix, face up, spacing them evenly so each portion contains egg. Spoon the mash on top and use the ricer to finish off, creating a pattern of strands that will crisp nicely and turn golden brown in the oven.

4. Put the dish on a baking tray and place on the middle shelf for about 30mins. If the top doesn't brown well, place it under a medium grill for the last 5mins. Serve with hot buttered greens or a big bowl of minty peas.