Are you ready to get your face into this?! I hope so, and that you'll find it a recipe worth waiting for, being that I'm now a relatively irregular food blogger! Yes - vegan fish pie - replicating all the delicate flavours of a 'real thing' white fish pie, without participating in any of the harm that goes with it (yes, fish DO feel pain, and fishing has caused a massive ecological problem, and continues to do so).
I'm pretty impressed with pie, and so was my non-vegan taste-tester, who came for dinner on the evening I created this. I NEVER normally cook with 'meat' substitutes for non-vegans, preferring to show the variety that can be had with plant-based cooking, that doesn't involve switching a flesh food for an analogue. Also, most 'meat' alternatives don't equally compare (they are different, rather than better or worse), and I don't want to leave non-vegans seeing it as a 'like for like' and then thinking that we vegans are somehow missing out.
However, the vegan 'fish' that you can buy from the Chinese supermarkets is quite something else. As my dad pointed out, you really could give it to a non-vegan and if they weren't already aware, they'd really not know. Plus, I had some in the freezer and I was dying to do something creative with it, so my friend was the recipient of my experimentation.
For this recipe, I used vegan fish steak and vegan grass prawns and I definitely think you need to use the substitutes that you can buy from the Chinese supermarkets, similar to the ones I've linked to above. I buy these from WH Lung in Manchester, one of my favourite Chinese stores. They're not cheap, and this recipe is definitely not a budget one, but neither is a 'real' fish pie. While this has the benefits of not screwing up the environment or causing suffering, but still tastes like the 'real thing' (for those who enjoy those flavours, and not everyone does, but each to their own, hey?).
They are not for everyone. I know some vegans whose stomachs turn at the thought of the prawns! But then, I know some non-vegans whose stomachs turn at the thought of 'real' prawns. We are all different, and I think there is a place for this type of dish, especially for people who are still getting the hang of plant-based cooking and who desire the tastes they have grown up on.
The tastes in this recipe are delicately balanced - not strong ones, and they are not the overpowering ones of using dead fish. More subtle, and very delicious. Anyway, as always, if you make this recipe yourself, I'd LOVE to know what you think of it in the comments section please. THANK YOU!
Further recipe tips:
1. Note that I used REFINED coconut oil. This is like the cheap KTC stuff you can buy. This means you don't have the coconut flavour, which is definitely not desired for this recipe.
2. Double check but as the particular kinds of vegan fish that are used for this recipe are soya based, they are gluten free too.
3. To make this recipe fully gluten-free, just use GF flour instead of the standard one for the sauce.
Vegan Fish Pie
1 onion, finely chopped
3 leeks, sliced and washed
7 large vegan prawns, chopped
6 vegan fish steaks (about 400g), chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
Oil for frying
2 tbsp refined coconut oil
4 tbsp white flour
1½ tsp dry mustard
2 cups (550ml) unsweetened soya milk
2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Fresh ground black pepper
Mashed potato pie topping:
750g baby potatoes (about 4 heaping cups), diced
½ cup (175ml) unsweetened soya milk
¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
½ tsp salt
- Boil the potatoes to make the mash. Put the potatoes in a large pan of cold water, bring to the boil, then boil until for about 10 minutes until soft enough to mash. Once cooked (slightly crumbly but not falling apart), drain. Put back into the pan (where you will mash them), and while still hot, dollop the coconut oil on top so it melts.
2. Heat some oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion on a low-medium heat, until softened. Add the sliced leeks, and continue to cook for 10 minutes until soft. Stir in the chopped vegan prawns and fish, and cook for another few minutes, before adding the thyme and garlic. Stir in on the heat for a few moments, then turn the heat off and set aside.
3. Mash the potatoes with the soya milk, salt and melted coconut oil. It's okay for them to be a little lumpy and textured, but mash well. Stir in the nutritional yeast and mix well.
4. Make the sauce. In a large pan, slowly melt the refined coconut oil. In a small bowl, mix the flour and dry powder mustard, then add the flour mixture to the coconut oil. Use a hand-whisk to mix in, then over a low heat, continue to cook and whisk for a couple of minutes to make a loose roux. VERY slowly start adding the soya milk – a couple of tablespoons at a time at first – and keep whisking as you add, so no lumps are formed.
5. Once the all the milk has been added and you have a sauce, stir in the nutritional yeast, nutmeg, lemon juice, paprika and grind in some black pepper. Then, mix the contents of the frying pan (the filling) into the sauce pan.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Into a Pyrex casserole dish, pour the 'fish' and sauce filling. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of the mash, just to thicken more. Then, top the filling with the mash pie top, a tablespoon or two at a time so you can ensure it is evenly spread. Once totally topping the mixture, use a fork to scrape and neaten the topping, then place in the oven. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the top looks golden.
7. Serve with stir-fried green beans!