Masterclass: Fish pie by Mark Jordan

22 May 2015 by
Masterclass: Fish pie by Mark Jordan

Chef Mark Jordan creates the perfect pie for his casual Jersey bistro, as well as a lobster dish more suited to his Michelin-starred establishment, the Ocean restaurant at the Atlantic hotel. Michael Raffael reports

Any home economics course will teach students to make fish pie. Along with cottage pie and shepherd's pie, it forms the triumvirate of potato-topped recipes. They are cheap, easy and, in the past at least, based on leftovers.

It has also been an easy call for some processed food manufacturers. A typical ingredient list contains "41% potato topping", "4% white fish", "3% prawns" and "3% salmon". It may taste fine, but not many people would go to dinner and pay over £15 per portion for it.

Making a fish pie worthy of a Bib Gourmand requires impeccable, choice raw materials as well as skill. And that's what Jersey bistro Mark Jordan At The Beach offers its customers. Islanders recognise the taste of fresh seafood, meaning any lapse in quality would stand out. The recipe has to be familiar, but notches above what a domestic cook can achieve.

Mark Jordan

Over the past decade, gastropubs and restaurants have bought into fish cakes as a cost-effective way of feeding an inexpensive but tasty starter or main course to customers. It may now be time for a fish pie revival. It's not a classic in which the components are fixed in stone, but on the other hand, it is unforgiving: any skimping on ingredients, cost cutting or preparation short-cuts will stick out. Mrs Beeton's version (see below) was very much a below-stairs staple. Chef Mark Jordan's elevates it to another level.


Batch size depends on whether it's a weekday or a weekend, but the kitchen will prepare a minimum of eight portions, made fresh every day. Daily fish and shellfish deliveries from fishermen suppliers ensure that the recipe is never working with leftovers. The lobsters arrive cooked and the scallops shelled. The supplier guts and scales the white fish.

Prepare the béchamel daily and chill it ahead of service. Make the mashed potato to a piping consistency. Fill a disposable piping bag with it and chill. Before service, layer the pie dish with fish and sauce and keep chilled. Pipe the potato on top and bake to order.


Jersey doesn't have VAT, but it does have a 5% goods and services tax on everything, including food. The price of the ingredients fluctuates, but Mark Jordan charges £16.50 for the fish pie and achieves 68% gross profit in winter and 70% in summer. Within this charge, he can include lobster meat, a diver scallop and line-caught white fish.

Fish and shellfish

The choice of fish depends on the daily catch. Typically, it will include line-caught bass, line-caught cod, scallop, lobster and farmed salmon, with cockles and prawns for extra flavour and texture.

The fillet bass, salmon and cod is prepared in the traditional way. Make a lateral cut above the shoulder and behind the gill. Cut along the backbone from head to tail (1).

Remove one fillet. Turn the fish over and then take the second fillet off the bone (2). Trim the two belly flaps and reserve the pieces for stocks, soups or bisques. Pinbone the fish. Don't remove the skin from the fillets. It keep the chunks of fish from breaking up when the fish pie is baking.

When preparing the lobster, break the tail off the carcass (3). "Cripples" that have lost a claw or legs and both larger and smaller lobsters may be significantly cheaper than the 600g ones that fetch a premium. Hold the tail in the palm of the hand and crush it until the shell cracks. Take the tail meat out of the shell and reserve (4). Remove the meat from the claws (5). Use the shell and carapace for bisques.

For the shelled scallop, remove the roe, the black digestive gland and any bowel around the waist (6). Only the whole piece of meat goes into the pie. Boiled and shelled cockles or clams and optional Atlantic prawns are pre-prepared.


This is the classic, basic recipe that was once a part of every professional kitchen. Scale up as necessary.

  • 50g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 500ml simmering milk
  • Salt

Melt the butter in a pan without letting it foam. Stir in the flour (7) and cook over a gentle heat for three minutes. Season the milk with a teaspoon of salt. Add the hot milk to the roux a little at a time, stirring continuously. Bring to the boil. Let it cook out gently on the side of the range for about 30 minutes (8). The sauce base should be quite thick. Chill before use.

Mashed potato

Choose a floury potato like Desiree for this. Don't enrich the potato with butter, but keep it at a smooth, piping consistency. Scale up as necessary. Put 1kg of peeled and chopped potatoes in cold water to cover. Add 10g salt per litre of water. Boil and simmer until cooked. Drain, rice or mash, then beat in approximately 150ml double cream. The exact amount may vary depending on the moisture content in the potato. Cool a little. Fill a disposable piping bag with the mash and reserve.

Fish pie

Serves 8

  • 500g (approximate) chilled béchamel
  • 500g bass fillet, skin on
  • 400g cod fillet, skin on
  • 400g salmon fillet, skin on
  • 8 scallops
  • 250g lobster tail or claw
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs
  • 120g boiled cockles and/or prawns
  • 1kg mashed potato

Mark Jordan bakes his pies in Petite Maison brie bakers, but any pie dish that can hold a 500g portion should work. Spread enough béchamel over the base of the pie dish to cover it. Cut the round fish into pieces weighing at least 25g each and lay them on the sauce (9). Add a scallop, a thick slice of lobster and a quartered hard-boiled egg to each portion. Sprinkle in the cockles and/or prawns (10) and then spread a layer of sauce on top.

Set aside until service, then pipe on 120g mashed potato (11). Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated, 180°C oven. The top should brown, but finish under the salamander if necessary.

Tips and variations

  • Jordan serves his fish pie with a jar of ketchup and half a lemon.
  • Add a little grated cheese to the béchamel, or add chopped chives or parsley. Jordan also likes to put in a little sweetcorn.
  • He used to add a raw oyster, but people are sometimes allergic to them, so he desisted.
  • Don't stand the pie dishes on trays that absorb heat.
  • Ensure the béchamel is thick because the water in the seafood will thin it to the correct consistency.

Lobster, mango and Jersey Royal salad

This salad, taken from his tasting menu, illustrates his different approach to fine dining. Its composition is more labour intensive, with five separate elements and a higher unit cost.

The contrast with his Bib Gourmand style of cookery is clear. The variety of textures and their presentation have a powerful display element. But as well as a strong visual impact, they also carry a subliminal message: this dish is complex, and it has taken several cooks a lot of time to create before it's ready to serve to the customer.

11lb lobster

For the mango and lime gel

  • 500g mango purée
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 5g agar agar

For the Jersey Royal potato salad

  • 250g Jersey Royals
  • Reserved lobster meat from the knuckles
  • 1tsp good quality mayonnaise
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • Salt to taste

For the mango and basil salsa

  • 1 ripe mango
  • 6 leaves of basil
  • Juice of 1 lime

For the tempura batter

  • 300g soft flour
  • 100g cornflour
  • 275ml sparkling water
  • Salt

For the garnish

  • 1 yellow chicory
  • Ebène caviar
  • Baby basil leaves
  • Lobster tapioca cracker

To prepare the lobster, remove the tail and claws from the head and place a spoon through the back of the tail (this keeps the tail straight during the cooking process).
Blanch in boiling, salted water for two minutes, then refresh in ice cold water. Do the same with the claws, but boil for five minutes. Peel the shell from the tail and, using a knife, make a small incision at the tail and pull the intestine, which runs down the centre of the lobster, to remove it.

Roll the tail tightly in clingfilm to form a neat cylinder and place into a water bath at 62°C for 12 minutes. Crack the claws and remove the shell. Keeping the claws whole, remove the meat from the knuckles and keep to one side.

Mango and lime gel

Bring the mango purée to the boil, whisk in the agar agar and remove from the heat. Add the lime juice, then spread onto a flat tray and chill. When firm, transfer to a liquidiser and blend until smooth.

Jersey Royal potato salad

For the potato salad, wash the potatoes under cold running water to remove any excess dirt, then place into cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer for six to eight minutes, or until the potatoes are just cooked. Drain and cool, remove the skin from the potatoes and dice into ½cm cubes. Combine with the mayonnaise, reserved lobster meat, lemon juice and salt.

Mango and basil salsa

Peel and dice the mango into 1cm cubes. Combine with 1tsp of mango purée, finely shredded basil and a squeeze of lime juice.

Tempura batter

Gently whisk together all the ingredients. Don't over-whisk the batter as this will result in a chewy, doughy finish. Lumps in the batter will keep it fluffy and crisp.

To serve

Drag the mango purée across the centre of the plate. Slice the lobster into three and dress with a squeeze of lime juice and a spoon of caviar on top.

Arrange the lobster on the mango purée, followed by three quenelles of the potato salad. Break down the chicory and, using just the nice yellow tips, rest them on the potato salad. Spoon the salsa over the lobster and top with the lobster cracker.

Dip the lobster claw in the tempura batter, place in a deep fat fryer at 180°C and cook until golden and crispy. Dust with salt and cut the base from the lobster claw and stand the claw upright in the centre of the plate. Finish by garnishing with a few baby basil leaves.

Mrs Beeton's fish pie (circa 1900)

  • The remains of any cold fish
  • 2oz butter
  • Some mashed potato
  • 2tsps anchovy sauce
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Flake the fish and season with the anchovy and cayenne. Put in a well-buttered pie dish, lay a little oiled butter over the top, fill up with potatoes, and bake for 15 minutes.

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