I tend to buy more fresh trout than salmon these days, as for the price of the entry level salmon fillets, you can usually get some beautiful Scottish or Irish trout instead, and you’ll be very glad you did – trout fillets have a lovely clean, rich flavour and, like salmon they’re as good roasted in the oven as they are cooked en papillote or in sauces.
Instead of making my usual roasted trout-with-lemony-crème fraîche-and-chestnut-mushrooms-pasta (you should try it, it’s a classic), I decided to try making individual pot pies the last time I bought some trout fillets.
If you’ve ever had a pot pie, you’ll know how incredibly comforting they are, but they can take a fair while to make as the meat – usually chicken – needs to be cooked before being added to the pies for baking. With this quicker version, the trout pieces can be just added uncooked, meaning that the only stove time you’ll need to put in is to make a basic white sauce, which only takes a few minutes.
The puff pastry I’ve used in this recipe is not the traditional choice for pot pies – American recipes usually use a version that’s nearer shortcrust – but I think that the lighter, airier texture of the puff pastry works better with the richness of the trout, plus I have a serious weakness for the part of a puff pastry layer that’s all gooey and soft from touching the sauce, hence my executive decision here, but both will work perfectly, so feel free to use whichever you prefer.
QUICK TROUT POT PIES
Sort of a hybrid between a pot pie and a fish pie, these tasty little dishes are the ultimate in comfort food, and need only some peas or braised cabbage on the side to make a really satisfying meal. That said, if you’re going fully gung-ho on the comfort food idea, some creamy mash or buttery boiled potatoes would of course also be very welcome on the side. No judgment here; you do you.
Makes 4 pies; each is a serving
I’ve used courgette, leek, baby potatoes and frozen peas in my pot pies, but you can use any vegetables you like. Celery and carrot would work well, for example. If you do want to add some different veggies, a basic rule of thumb is to add any cubes of firmer veg with the butter when you’re starting the sauce. Softer veg can just be added when you’re putting the pies together. If you want to bring the dish closer to fish pie territory, add a large handful of frozen prawns to the sauce mixture just before assembling.
2 trout fillets
2 tablespoons of white wine (optional)
300 ml chicken stock
1 heaped tablespoon of crème fraîche (or 2 of cream)
2.5 tablespoons of plain flour
Dash of Tabasco
Dash of English mustard or mustard powder
2 small courgettes, sliced
Handful of frozen peas
1 leek, cleaned & sliced into rings
Handful of small baby potatoes, halved or quartered (the pieces should be no bigger than the size of a grape)
Handful of fresh parsley
1 packet of ready rolled puff pastry (or shortcrust if you prefer)
1 egg, beaten, for brushing
Salt & black pepper
Preheat your oven to 220ºc. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and add the leeks and the baby potatoes. Once they’re turning slightly golden, add the flour and stir well. Add a small pinch of salt & black pepper and a little English mustard or mustard powder. Add the wine if you’re using it (and have a bottle open; if not just omit!) and allow to simmer off. Add the milk, whisking it in well with each pour to allow it to fully incorporate into the flour mixture. Add the crème fraîche or cream and a generous dash of Tabasco. Whisk lightly if there are a few lumps, and cook for five minutes over a medium heat. When it’s smooth, start stirring in the stock. This method should create a rich, glossy but not starchy sauce. If it seems a little thin, add another scant tablespoon of flour and continue to cook for a few minutes, stirring all the time. It’s a little too thick, stir in some more stock or milk. Taste it – does it need any more seasoning?
Cut the skin off the trout fillets using a sharp knife and discard. Chop the fillets into cubes and divide between four small ovenproof dishes (or one larger dish if you don’t have four). Scatter the courgette slices over along the trout pieces with the parsley and some black pepper. Spoon over the sauce and stir the ingredients in the dishes gently to incorporate the sauce reasonably evenly; the dishes should be almost completely full. Top the dishes with a piece of puff pastry, so that it runs all the way out to the furthest edges on each side. Trim off any overhang with a sharp knife. You may need to roll your piece of pastry out a bit more thinly to get enough for all of them. Cut a few darts into the top of each pie to allow steam to escape. Push the pastry down slightly so that it’s just touching the sauce mixture. If you’ve always wanted to make a trout shaped decoration for a pie now is your time – cut out a basic fish shape from any remaining scraps, re-rolled out and press lightly onto the pies. Brush the pastry cases liberally with the beaten egg, then bake for around 25-30 minutes, or until the pies are deeply golden and well risen. Serve with braised cabbage or peas, and mash or boiled potatoes if desired.