Fish for Good Friday? How to make it taste fabulous

A luxurious fish and shellfish pie and decadent arancini fishcakes with mozzarella

Remember when chef Wade Murphy of Restaurant 1826 in Adare took part in the RTÉ TV show Healthy Appetite a while back, and almost gave dietician Aveen Bannon a heart attack when she saw the amount of butter, cream and cheese that went into his fish pie?

A “slimline” version of the pie was created for the show, but it never made it to the restaurant menu. “The healthy version went out the window straight after the show,” Murphy says.

And when the dietician and her husband visited 1826, what did they order? Fish pie by two, of course. “It was delicious. So good. I tried not to remember what was in it,” Bannon says.

This is a signature recipe that Murphy has perfected over years. “It makes regular appearances on the specials and there are customers who call the restaurant to see if it is on, before they make a reservation,” Murphy says.


“I took a phone call recently from a lady who asked was it on, and when I told her it was, she said ‘It’s not the healthy version, is it?’ ”

Many of us will be eating fish on Friday, and below is the recipe for that pie – the full-fat one, that is. It is a generous mix of fish, smoked fish, prawns, mussels, clams – and optional lobster tail – topped with panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan. In the restaurant, chef Murphy serves it with a poached egg on top, for an added touch of luxury.

What is really interesting about this recipe is that the sauce is not a plain white béchamel made with flour and butter roux. Instead it is a mix of gently sweated vegetables and herbs (lots of them, including fennel, leeks and celery), smoked bacon, white wine, fish stock and cream, blended and then passed through a fine sieve, so you end up with a massively flavoursome, silky sauce.

At Michael's in the Dublin suburb of Mount Merrion, chef proprietor Gareth (Gaz) Smith has been converting children, and occasionally adults, to the joys of eating fish, with these arancini fishcakes.

Based on a filling of risotto rice, with nuggets of hake and prawn, and melting strands of mozzarella, the fishcakes are served with mayonnaise flavoured with paprika, lime and wild garlic.

They are easy to make, but you will need to get hold of, or make, a good fish stock. “Something to bear in mind with arancini, or risotto, is that you want the stock to be very strong tasting at the start, because the rice will dilute the flavour,” Smith says.

"We have the advantage, in the restaurant, of having access to fresh fish stock every day. If your stock is a bit light in flavour, nobody will judge you for crumbling in a bit of Knorr fish bouillon. I use it at home myself sometimes," he says.


Serves 4 - 6

400g fish fillets – including cod, pollock, hake, smoked haddock
4/6 scallops
24 mussels – cooked in white wine and taken from the shell – keeping the stock for sauce
24 clams – cooked the same way as the mussels
100g fresh crab meat
8-12 prawns, shelled
Half a cooked lobster tail, cut into six pieces (optional, but well worth it)
Fish pie sauce base, recipe below
Panko breadcrumbs (Asian supermarkets are a good place to find these, but if you don't have them, use any breadcrumbs)
Grated Parmesan cheese

To serve:
4/6 soft poached eggs (one per person)
Lemon wedges to garnish
Sprig of chervil to garnish

50g unsalted butter
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
Half a bulb of fennel, sliced
2 slices smoked streaky bacon, chopped
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Half a leek, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 Rooster potato, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
Sprig of thyme
200mls white wine
225mls fish stock (fresh is best)
225mls cream
130 mls reserved clam and mussel stock
2 tbsp chopped tarragon
1 tbsp chopped chervil
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Add the rapeseed oil and butter to a heavy-based pot,and cook until it just begins to foam. Add the onion, celery, fennel, leek, garlic, potato and bacon. Sweat until the vegetables are soft (without it taking on any colour).

2. Add the bay leaves and the sprig of the thyme. Add the white wine and cook until almost all of it has evaporated. Add the fish stock, cream and shellfish stock.

3. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until the vegetables and potatoes are tender.

4. Remove from the heat, remove the bay leaves and thyme sprig, and blend until smooth. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve.

5. Add the chopped herbs, lemon zest and juice, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. Allow the sauce to cool until needed.

6. Preheat an oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

7. Place the cooked mussels, clams, crab and lobster (if using) in the base of small ovenproof dishes, or one large pie dish.

8. Put the pie sauce in a pot and bring it to a boil. Once you have a rolling boil, add the uncooked fish, prawns and scallops. Return to the heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Allow to simmer for three or four minutes. Remove from the heat and evenly distribute the fish and sauce in the pie dishes, or dish.

9. Generously top the pie with panko breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan. Place in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden on top and you can see the sauce bubbling at the side of the dish.

10. While the pie is in the oven, poach the eggs in boiling water with a splash of white wine vinegar for three minutes. Remove them and keep them warm.

11. Take the fish pie from the oven, garnish with the eggs and wedges of lemon and a sprig of chervil. Serve with some creamy mash on the side.


Serves 4

250g skinless, boneless hake fillets, diced into 1cm cubes
8 large peeled prawns, finely chopped
2 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove of garlic
250g carnaroli rice
Glass of white wine
Tiny pinch of saffron (leave it out if you don't have any)
300ml fish stock
Handful of grated mozzarella
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
Handful of washed and finely chopped spinach
Good pinch of parsley
Good pinch of coriander
16 capers

For the coating:
60g flour
3 eggs, beaten
100g breadcrumbs – panko are the best for a crisp finish

For the mayonnaise:
4 tbsp mayonnaise (home-made is best, but a good shop bought one is fine)
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 clove of very finely chopped garlic, or if you have wild garlic, shred that in

1. First, make the arancini rice mix; this is easier to work with if it has been chilled down, and can be made a few hours ahead.

2. Sweat off the shallots and garlic in a good knob of butter until softened, but not coloured, then add the rice and cook it gently for a few minutes to get a little bit of nuttiness going on in the pan. Again, we’re not looking for colour at this stage, just squeezing an extra bit of flavour from the grains.

3. Now add the wine and the saffron. Do not stop stirring with a wooden spoon from now on. The risotto succeeds or fails on the stirring – the more you stir, the better it releases the starch, and the better the end result.

4. Slowly add the hot fish stock, a little ladle at a time, only adding more when the previous ladle has been gobbled up by the rice. This should take around 10-12 minutes, until the rice is just under cooked, and nicely holding together

5. Add the fish and prawns. They will cook out in a minute or two and will break up as you keep stirring.

6. Check for salt, and once you are happy with the seasoning, add the mozzarella and stir it in.

7. Pour the mixture into a wide, shallow tray; let it cool down, then pop it in the fridge, covered tightly, until you are ready to form the cakes.

8. Add chopped spinach, lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, coriander and capers to the chilled arancini mix and roll them into little ping pong ball sized balls. You should get around 16 balls, or four per person

9. Roll the arancini balls through the flour first, then the eggs and then, having shaken off the excess, dredge them through the panko breadcrumbs.

10. You can fry the fishcakes in a deep-fat fryer, or pan fry them over a medium heat. Everything is already cooked, so you are just crisping up the breadcrumbs, heating the mixture and melting the cheese inside.

11. Mix the flavoured mayonnaise ingredients together well, and serve with the fishcake.