Making Heston’s Perfect Fish Pie recipe from In Search of Perfection turns out to be an eye-opening lesson in food from the Fat Duck chef.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Once upon a time (2008, to be exact) we were lucky enough to enjoy our first meal at the Fat Duck. It was an incredible, life changing experience.

When we got home I immediately started reading and watching everything Heston-related I could get my hands on, desperate to enjoy more food as good as I’d eaten at his restaurant. Back then he’d only done three books and a couple of TV series (all of which I watched repeatedly on YouTube). Ling had also given me the second In Search of Perfection book the previous Christmas. This is the bit where my life starts to go wrong.

You see, I was an atrocious cook. Keen, yes, but my skills were pitiful. And there I am, flicking through Heston’s second selection of Perfection recipes when I get to the Heston’s Perfect Fish Pie recipe and the many pages detailing how to make it.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

The dish is a home tribute to one of the most famous and intricate dishes served at the Fat Duck, The Sound of the Sea, and those few pages from the book are horrifying things to look at – even if you aren’t a cack-handed novice like I was / still am.

sound-of-sea-fat-duck

Like many of the dishes in that book Heston’s Perfect Fish Pie recipe asks for column after column of obscure ingredients, and uses a shopping list of bizarre equipment that have a combined cost that’s more than some major kitchen appliances.

For us the daunting sight of these pages inspired six years of burned dinners and kitchen store shopping, as we tried to improve our skills & facilities to the point where we’d hopefully be competent enough to achieve our goal – cooking all 16 of Heston’s In Search of Perfection recipes.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Heston’s Fish Pie might not be the most famous of his In Search of Perfection recipes, and it’s certainly not the most complicated, but it’s the recipe that started us (me) on this six year quest. This recipe is our nemesis, our Everest, our Falconer of Karthain, and the one we’ve always been most determined to beat.

SUMMARY

Here’s our goal, the dish as it appears in Heston’s Further Adventures In Search of Perfection recipe book:

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

And here’s a video of Heston making the fish pie:


In Search of Perfection S2E4 Fish Pie by educkling
 

Recipes: Heston’s Perfect Fish Pie recipe

Special Equipment: Probe thermometer, pressure cooker, cappuccino frother, potato ricer, stick blender, barbecue and fish clamp or squirrel cage
Special Ingredients: Dried Kombu, Shirasu, agar powder, vermouth, meadowsweet hay
Time: 2 days
Serves: 4 – 8
Difficulty: Very hard

  heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Sourcing: Some of these ingredients were very hard to source. We’d recommend shopping at a larger Asian supermarket if possible – the kombu can be posted to you, but the frozen shirasu will need to be collected in person. Sadly your success with this recipe may depend on you being as close to one of those as you are to the coast or a good fishmonger. Frozen raw langoustine can be purchased at UK supermarkets Asda and Sainsburys these days. You’re on your own getting oysters.

REPORT

Step 1: Fish Stock

What more glamorous way to begin this recipe than with the grunt work of chopping up loads of veg. Even after these many Heston Blumenthal recipes I’m hardly Ninja Scroll’s Jubei when it comes to slicing, so this bit took us a good 15 minutes.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

We’ve made a few of these Heston Blumenthal Pressure Cooker Stock recipes by now, so we’re pretty familiar with what’s going on. Normally we’re doing chicken stock, which just needs an onion and a couple of carrots. Maybe some leek if you’re feeling flamboyant.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

But you won’t get away that easily, or cheaply, with the fish stock for Heston’s Perfect Fish Pie recipe! To the above list of veg add a punnet of button mushrooms, half a fennel bulb (throw away the other half) and a big scoop of whole coriander seeds.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

This lot needs a good ten to twenty minutes gentle frying before you add what I can only describe as a fish’s face.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Ideally this face will be left over from your hand-filleting an entire haddock, but I got the fish’s face we’re using today absolutely free from the fish counter at Morrisons. Simply cover his accusing stare with water and then cook at full pressure for 30 minutes.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

You’ll need the pressure cooker again soon so to save time you should tip the contents into a separate bowl for the final step, infusing with kombu and parsley for half an hour. The infusing is done now, and off the hob, because according to Heston both these ingredients have gentle flavours that would be destroyed by the heat in the pressure cooker.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

This puzzles us, because we’re gonna be high-temperature, high-pressure cooking this liquid shortly, and then bringing it to a vigorous rolling boil later on, when surely those delicate compounds would be destroyed anyway.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Anyhow, because this is a typically wasteful Heston Blumenthal recipe, you now need to strain the stock and throw all those ingredients away, fish’s face included.

Step 2: Preparing the Langoustines

You’ll want some scissors and a complete disregard for your thumbs during this part of Heston’s Perfect Fish Pie recipe.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Start by snipping the faces off of your langoustines. Discard these bits as apparently they don’t make good stock.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Next up separate each langoustine into its component parts, like a Kinder Egg toy designed by H.R. Giger (fear not, the langoustine will have his revenge for this treatment, as the shells will tear your skin to bits as you work on them).

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Tightly and neatly package the tail meat in two layers of clingfilm and put them straight in the fridge. You won’t need the meat again until you’re ready to finish the pie.

Step 3: Fortifying the Fish Stock

Unexpectedly, the normally wasteful Heston Blumenthal has a use for all the leftover shells in his fish pie recipe – we’re going to use them to fortify and enhance the flavours of the fish stock.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Roast the leftover shells in the oven until they’re rosy and fragrant.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Meanwhile slice up yet more veg (thankfully less than before) and sweat this in the pressure cooker.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Then add all of the roasted shells and the strained fish stock from before.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Cover with water…

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

…get the lid on and cook for another 30 minutes.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Strain this lot of stock as well, again chucking the leftovers into the bin (your countertop food waste caddy should be completely full by now). We’ve joked in the past about how wasteful these Heston Blumenthal recipes can seem, and it’s still true here. But it’s always worth remembering that stock is essentially just flavoured water, and the more stuff you put into it the more flavour it’ll have.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

You’ll want to cool this stock down as quickly as possible then store it in the fridge for later.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

You should have anything up to two litres of luxurious, fortified fish stock at this point. You will need less than half that amount for the full recipe. After all the trouble you’ve gone to we’d suggest freezing it for later use, it’d be heart-breaking to throw stock of this quality away.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Step 4: Edible Sand

Essentially a fancy garnish, this stuff will keep absolutely fine in a sealed container. So, rather than scramble about at the last minute to make it, you might as well prepare it early and make Heston’s Perfect Fish Pie recipe fractionally easier.

First, fry some breadcrumbs.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Second, drain those breadcrumbs.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

You’re meant to use Japanese Panko, but since the crumbs will be ground up later on we’re just using some blitzed-in-a-food-processor-then-baked-in-the-oven breadcrumbs we made from an old batch loaf.

More frying next: the Shirasu. These tiny little things have an incredible fresh-sea scent to them. They only make up a small part of the garnish, but they’ll be vital in capturing the smell that makes this dish such a, yawn, “multi-sensory experience”. Drain these on kitchen paper as well.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Finally, you’ll want to blitz up some more of that dried kombu. It’s worth doing a double amount because you’re going to need some more for the fish cure.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Roast and chop the kombu, then blitz it in a coffee or spice grinder. It’ll take quite a while to break it down into the fine powder you want.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Combine the three ingredients thoroughly then crush to the texture of wet sand using a pestle and mortar. Or, if a pestle and mortar seems to be the one kitchen tool you don’t actually own, use a small bowl and the end of a rolling pin.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Step 5: Fish Cure

The bit is quite easy. You just need some scales and a bowl. Oh and some more kombu. Blitz up another batch if you’ve run out.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Combine the kombu powder with a lot of salt, a bit of sugar and, oddly, a dash of Vermouth. Adding liquid to a cure seems counter-intuitive (isn’t the point to draw out the moisture), but Vermouth is going to play a vital part in adding to the fresh, seaside smells and flavours of Heston’s Perfection Fish Pie recipe.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Mix it all up and reserve it to use for curing the fish.

Step 6: Curing the Fish

So far Heston’s In Search of Perfection Fish Pie recipe has been several steps of seemingly unconnected preparation, none of them involving much fish or much pie. It’s actually a relief to get to this bit.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Begin by stretching out some clingfilm, placing your fish on top of it (skin side down) and then painting this fish with more vermouth. Cover the fish with the kombu cure mixture, until it starts to look like the opening scenes of Prometheus.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Do exactly the same with the haddock.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Wrap both of these fillets up in two tight layers of clingfilm, then leave them in the fridge for the salt cure to work its magic.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Step 7: Confit Onions

This step can be done at more or less any point in the recipe before finishing time, but we’re getting it out of the way now because, like all confit recipes, these onions will keep well in the oil.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

It would’ve been a damn sight easier if I’d had access to proper baby onions, but even Booths at Media City were out of stock (actually, their range has been dreadful lately). Instead we had to use shallots which obviously taste a bit different, but are roughly the same size. Peeling them was murder and they fell into all sorts of pieces, instead of remaining in the proud halves I cut them into. That boiling the skins off trick has never worked for us.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Add a bit of salt and a lot of oil, enough to cover, and cook on a low heat for ten minutes. You’ll be pleased to hear that, in keeping with Heston’s theme of being wasteful, all this oil has no further use. Afterwards, throw it away (but first keep it to cover the onions until final assembly).

Step 8: Removing the Fish Cure

After 4 hours of curing the haddock should be ready. Unwrap it and wash off the fish cure, which will now resemble a kind of primordial black slime.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Pat the haddock dry, pop him on a plate, and then let him sit, uncovered, in the fridge for another 2 hours. During this time he’ll develop a dry surface layer, or “pellicle”, that’ll help the smoky flavours stick to it.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

After 2 hours it’s time to get out the salmon, which will also be covered in Exxon Valdez-sludge. Wash that off and wrap him up tightly in clingfilm for later.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

While you’re putting the salmon back in the fridge you can get out the haddock, because it’s time for the absolute daftest part of this whole recipe: hay smoking.

Step 9: Hay Smoking the Haddock

Heston Blumenthal is a chef famous for his scientific approach to cooking, one that demands controlled environments and absolute precision. So it’s a bit unexpected that he wants us all to set fire to a loose bundle of hay on a windy afternoon. Ideally, a loose bundle of hay in a squirrel cage.

All good Heston recipes have at least one utterly bizarre bit in them, and for Heston’s In Search of Pefection Fish Pie recipe this is it. Now, I admit, we’ve bought loads of crap to clutter the kitchen with in pursuit of making all of these In Search of Perfection recipes, but at least we can pretend we’ll get extra use out of some of that stuff. The whipping siphon has been particularly handy recently.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

But we’ve gotta draw the line somewhere, and that somewhere is buying a squirrel cage. Our makeshift alternative is a mate’s fish clamp, balanced across a portable barbecue. This should hold the hay together in about the same way as a cage.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Pack down a load of hay, lay your haddock fillets on top of each other, skin-side out, and then just set fire to the hay. The corners will smoulder for a minute or two and then suddenly the whole thing will go up in flames like Piper Alpha.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Stand back, there’s going to be a lot of fragrant smoke and burning twigs scattered about by the wind. The smoking process will take about 3 to 5 minutes, occupy yourself during this time by chasing down bits of hay that are on fire and have been blown behind the recycling bins. (P.S. Don’t do what I did and put on fresh, clean clothes immediately before starting this).

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Eventually you’ll end up with smoky clothes, an ash-strewn garden and two fillets of very cooked-looking haddock. Rescue them to a plate, then run your burnt fingers under the cold tap.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Back in the kitchen for an examination of the haddock fillets The edges are heavily charred, while the centre is still quite raw.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Cut away any part of the fish that’s cooked BUT, in a shocking twist for Heston Blumenthal Perfection recipes, you don’t want to throw this cooked haddock away. Well, you will soon, but not just yet.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Wash all the hay off the raw portions, dab them dry and reserve in fridge for using in the fish pie. The not-too burnt bits we’re going to use for starting our smoked haddock sauce.

Step 10: Starting the Smoked Haddock Sauce

The sauce for Heston’s Perfect Fish Pie is a two stage affair, it’ll needs a quick stay in the fridge after this first step.

Begin by assembling the ingredients: your excessively complicated fish stock, the cooked bits of the haddock, vermouth, wine, onions, garlic, cream and some agar powder.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Sweat the onions and garlic….

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

… then add a mixture of white wine and vermouth. Add the fish stock, cream and smoked haddock pieces and simmer for 20 minutes, until all of those flavours have had time to get to know each other, and the raw dairy note has been cooked out of the double cream.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Then strain everything through a sieve, reserving the liquid. The leftover vegetables and haddock pieces? Yep, you guessed it. Throw them in the bin.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Pour that strained sauce back into the pan and add your agar powder. Now, we’ve had previous trouble with agar-thickened sauces: you cook them, set them to solidify, blend them to a thick sauce and then reheat for serving. Only trouble is agar sets at room temperature, so last time we did this our sauce actually solidified on the plate. Read about this bizarre phenomenon here, and if you don’t believe us check out Kita’s very talented and respectable “I Want to Cook Like Heston” report for further proof.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

We eventually managed to track the problem we were having with these agar-thickened sauces. To fully “activate” the agar you need to get the temperature above 85°C. Our simmering temperature probably wasn’t going high enough. If you’re using agar we advise a temperature probe and lots of stirring. Or just keep heating it, and don’t stop until you see your mixture bubbling.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Pour the sauce into a bowl, chill over ice if you can, and then put it in the fridge where it’ll set solid, ready for later.

Step 11: Starting the Mashed Potatoes

There’s a lot of ways Heston Blumenthal will try to trick you with his recipes. One of his favourites is the ingredients list. In this case it’s his asking for “500g of peeled and sliced” charlotte potatoes.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

We’ve fallen for this type of trick in the past, by getting 500g of potatoes then peeling and slicing them. What we were actually supposed to do was keep peeling and slicing potatoes until those slices added up to 500g.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

The slices need to be rinsed to remove the excess starch (the slimy stuff you can feel on the surface of each slice). This will give you a lighter, cleaner-tasting mash.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Now for the cooking. Pre-cooking, actually. Heston being Heston, your potatoes need to be subjected to a range of treatments before he’ll let you call them mashed potatoes. The most crucial of these is locking the starches by cooking the potatoes at a set temperature of 70°C.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

You can do this by sticking a probe thermometer in a pan and starting it off at 80°C (the slices will cool the water down to the ideal temperature of 70°C), then adjusting the hob or removing the pan from the heat to maintain that temperature for the next half hour. It takes constant attention though, so we’re taking the easy route by just bunging the potato slices in a bag and plonking them into a water bath with our Sainsaire.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

30 minutes later your potatoes have all their starch temperature-locked, but be nowhere near cooked yet. So now boil them for a lot, lot longer than you normally would. This step will take a full 20 minutes.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Drain the boiled potatoes, and then toss them in a dry pan on a low hob to steam out the excess water. Then use a potato ricer to mash all the potatoes over cubed cold butter. Mix all of this together.

 

Now it’s time for one our least favourite Heston chores: pushing the potatoes through a fine-mesh tamis sieve (or, in our case, a frying pan splatter-guard stuck onto a mixing bowl with a bulldog clip).

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

The bowl might look a lot emptier than you expect, that’s because the mash will be clinging on to the underside of the sieve like a horror movie monster.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Congratulations, you’ve successfully made… ha, just kidding! As far as Heston’s Perfect Fish Pie Recipe is concerned this mash is barely half finished. Reserved it in a bowl covered with clingfilm for later.

Step 12: Shuck the Oysters

I’d spent two hours on Saturday afternoon searching high and low for oysters. Nowhere in Manchester had any for sale. I finally bagged these from Leigh market at about ten to five.

Do you own an oyster shucking knife? We certainly don’t. For us oysters are a treat reserved for restaurants or strolls round food festivals. Anyhow, there’s a reason the professionals who serve us these oysters use special shucking knives, rather than this tiny paring knife I’ve got.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

In the past we’ve jokingly referred to our two-course In Search of Perfection meals as the “10pm Supper Club” on account of how late you end up eating. Well, it was well gone 11pm by the time I started attacking the oysters with our weedy little knife.

Those oysters attacked back forcefully. If you’ve never shucked an oyster yourself here’s a fun way you can practice at home. Get an avocado stone and wedge about two dozen razorblades all over the surface, jutting out at every possible angle. Now pick this bundle up with your hands and try and prize the avocado stone in half.

That’s what it feels like for a novice trying to shuck oysters at quarter-to-midnight on a Sunday. It took me an hour to do just four. On the plus side, I managed to fit in a few chapters of the Cobweb audiobook while I was at it.

The oysters turned out to be pathetically small, but they’re a vital ingredient in the recipe, so I’m glad we managed to include them. Save ‘em in the fridge with the fish and langoustine tails (remember those?) until you’re ready to assemble the pie.

Whatever juices I didn’t spill onto the chopping boards were reserved for the foaming sea water sauce.

Step 13: Preparing the Pie Filling

Remember all those bits of fish we lovingly wrapped in clingfilm and kept in the fridge? Well, it’s time to get them out and put them in our pie dishes. Slice the fish into 2cm cubes and pack into the bottom of the dish.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Leave space for the sauce, unlike I did. Add the langoustine tails and those pathetic little oysters.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Finally top with the confit onions and frozen peas.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Reserve these dishes in the fridge while you finish off the next couple of steps.

Step 14: Foaming Seawater Sauce

This is the most gimmicky part of the recipe, and theoretically optional, but bloody hell it’s worth doing.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

You’re going to be making a sea frothy foam sauce. The idea is that, combined with the edible sand we made earlier, it’ll top the pie and give the impression of waves lapping against the shore. It’s an idea that comes from one of Heston’s most famous dishes at the Fat Duck, the Sound of the Sea, which looks like this:

sound-of-sea-fat-duck

Famously served with an iPod playing ambient coastal sounds, this dish embodies one of Heston’s favourite food concepts: multisensory perception. You’ve probably already heard about his belief that we eat with all our senses, and that sight and smell can be just as vital to the dining experience as taste. Sound too, if at all possible, which is where that iPod comes in.

And that’s what makes this layer so important to Heston’s Perfect Fish Pie recipe. We mentioned before that the shirasu and kombu used to make the sand had a strikingly fresh sea scent, it turns out that Vermouth, combined with the juice from the shucked oysters, also does.

Here we’re adding it to a pan of the leftover fish stock and some skimmed milk powder and soy lecithin.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Use a hand blender to combine all these thoroughly.

You can start using your cappuccino frother to bubble the sauce up now, but we found our foam collapsed after about minutes (possibly due to out of date soy lecithin, I bought this when we planned to make the dish back in 2009 – but it’s seven quid a tub so I wasn’t gonna throw this out and buy fresh stuff).

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Keep the sea foam warm in a covered pan. The next few steps are all going to happen quite quickly, so you want everything organised.

Step 15: Finishing the Potatoes

Simmer some milk then add to the reserved, buttery potato puree.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

That mash now needs the following adding: egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce, wholegrain mustard, grated cheese and creamed horseradish.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Stir the whole lot together then dollop it into a piping bag (or one of these crappy Asda freezer bags I’m too cheap to replace, and too much of a hoarder to simply throw out). Set the finished mashed potatoes to one side to top the fish pies.

Step 16: Finishing the Sauce

When you remove the “sauce” from the fridge it will have set into a single solid mass. Look, I even took a scoop out of it to prove this (and I ate that scoop, it was delicious). It’s so solid that you could hold the bowl upside down over your head. But don’t, just in case.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

To make a sauce from this brick you need to break it down using gentle heat and a stick blender.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

You want parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon to finish the sauce with. I managed to find three of those amongst the half dead pots in the garden. The tarragon was dried stuff from a jar. Shhhh, let’s keep that between us, ok.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

We only needed this recipe to serve two people, so we’d halved the quantities for several components (well, we wouldn’t want to be wasteful when making a Heston recipe). That meant we only needed five egg yolks to finish the sauce, rather than the full ten.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Keep stirring while heating to 65°C, and hold this temp for 3 minutes to thicken, enrich and essentially custardize the sauce. Your sauce must be at this exact temperature when you assemble the pie.

Step 17: Assembling and Finishing the Fish Pie

Start by covering the seafood, peas and onions with the herby, custardy sauce. You might note that all the fish at this point is still completely raw.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Heston likes his low-temperature seafood (see Heston’s Salmon with Bois Boudrain sauce) and, like a water bath, the heat of the sauce will penetrate the raw fish, bringing it to Heston’s ideal seafood serving temperature of 45°C. This is why you had to cut the fish to such specifically sized cubes earlier.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Now pipe the mash across the surface of the sauce (the high liquid content will make the mash flow very smoothly). Spread it out evenly and make sure there are no gaps anywhere.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Put the mash under the grill for a couple of minutes to gratinate. You’re looking for a crisp brown surface, but without adding so much heat that you risk overcooking the fish underneath.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

To one half of the dish add the breadcrumb, shirasu and kombu “sand”…

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

… and spread the other half with the foaming seawater sauce.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Dig out your sound of the sea .mp3 file, or play the video file below (I think this is the real deal, but I haven’t heard audio compression this bad since I played Myst in 1993)

Press play and get ready to tuck in (at long last).

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Congratulations, you’ve just finished Heston Blumenthal’s In Search of Perfection Fish Pie recipe. It’s 3am and you’re up for work in a few hours. Enjoy.

VERDICT

This is the 12th of Heston’s 16 In search of Perfection recipes we’ve made. And it’s taken us until now, and until this specific dish, to finally “get” what Heston’s whole In Search of Perfection project actually means.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

It’s a revelation that’s especially significant here, since it’s so easy to look at this particular recipe, and all the steps we’ve taken above, and decide that it’s too much work for a dish as simple as fish pie After this two day ordeal it’d be natural to conclude that that Heston Blumenthal is a complete idiot with too much time on his hands. In many ways it’d be odd if you didn’t think that.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

But making something nice to eat, even something incredibly nice to eat, isn’t actually the goal of this, or indeed any, of Heston Blumenthal’s In Search of Perfection recipes. The goal is to make the best version of a specific dish possible, no matter the cost in time, effort or ingredients.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

That might seem obvious; this series is called “In Search of Perfection”, after all. But when Jamie Oliver has spent years casually throwing around descriptions like “ultimate” and “best ever” it’s been easy for us to imagine that each and every one of these dishes is just Heston Blumenthal’s version of “ultimate” or “best ever”. That he’s just been taking any of your standard ready-meal usual suspects and going really, really, excessively, ridiculously over the top with his own interpretations. Which is, after all, what we all like him doing when we watch him on the telly.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Take the stock. I mean, can you honestly taste those mushrooms you added to the fish stock, underneath the flavour of all those herbs in the sauce and all that mustard and Worcestershire sauce in the mash? Would you really notice if those mushrooms had been left out? Be truthful.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

And that’s the point. Because, even though changing fashions have pushed the Fat Duck way down the San Pellegrino chart, at the point that the perfection recipes were being developed, Heston’s Bray establishment was considered one of the best restaurants in the entire world (though we are definitely not defending their current frozen-in-time tasting menu). And it’s the philosophy and attention-to-detail from that level of cooking that this dish represents.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

While at the restaurant they might top your salmon with liquorice gel, rather than creamy sauce and mash, the principle remains the same. Every single aspect of Heston’s Fish Pie recipe has, like it;s counterparts at the Fat Duck, been developed to be the absolute best it can be. Whether that’s it’s unforgettable decorative topping, or just the stock that’ll get used as a base for the cream sauce.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Heston’s Fish Pie recipe is as well thought out as any of his other Fat Duck courses. It’s the traditional dish, with respects paid to geographical origins and appreciation of the culinary history. It uses modernist techniques to maximise flavour and texture and enhances the eating experience with multisensory elements. It’s the future, the past, and everything in-between. If you’d walked into the world’s then-best restaurant and ordered a humble fish pie, this is how they’d have made it.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

So no matter how small a difference those mushrooms might make to the stock, if the Fat Duck chefs thought including them would benefit the dish, they’d add them. Multiply that one little detail by a hundred and you’ve got the ethos of the entire In Search of Perfection project. Multiply it by a thousand and you’ve got the dedication and attention-to-detail that separates the worlds very best restaurants from regular pub grub.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Is it perfection? Well, that’s subjective. The sauce was a bit too smoky for us, and we could’ve lived without even one egg yolk to enrich it, let alone the full five (factor in the three in the mash and that’s four egg yolks per serving). That high-butter mash was still on the greasy side, and the fish was a more undercooked and salty than our personal preference. Also, 3.38am on a Monday morning is not the best time to enjoy this dish.

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

But the point is that it’s Heston Blumenthal’s Perfect Fish Pie recipe. And for a chef as successful and creative as Heston you shouldn’t expect perfection to come easily. This isn’t just a Fish Pie recipe. It’s a story and a lesson. One we’ve been privileged to learn from.

NEXT TIME

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

We’d be idiots if we ever tried making this again. Once in a lifetime is enough. But we’ll obviously cook another fish pie one day, so here’s what we’d take away from this recipe:

  • Use any combination of fish you like, brined in a 5% salt solution for just 30 minutes
  • Replace the langoustines with king prawns for convenience
  • Agar-thickened sauce, but without the egg yolks
  • Package the cooked sauce and seafood in a sous vide bag to cook the fish
  • Replace the confit baby onions with sautéed diced onions for ease
  • Reduce the amount of butter in the mash, and leave out the yolks
  • Never shuck oysters at home ever again
  • Use a stock cube to make that sauce. Honestly, no one will know
  • Keep the sea foam and sand topping. The smell alone is worth it, never mind how awesome it looks

heston blumenthal perfect fish pie recipe in search of perection recipes sound of the sea fat duck heston at home

Further Reading

Heston-Blumenthal-In-Search-of-Perfection-All-16-recipes-cooked-finished-complete

Click here for all 16 of Heston Blumenthal’s In Search of Perfection recipes

I Want to Cook Like Heston – Our “fellow Heston-blogger-in-crime” Kita made the Heston at Home version of Heston’s Fish Pie recipe. This is well worth reading as she makes every single part, including stock, and the difference between it and the full perfection version is only a few egg yolks.

BigSpud – It’s always a pleasure to be able to reference Gary’s work. Here’s a great exploration of how you can use the full and comprehensive but still (relatively) simple mashed potato recipe to enhance dishes.

We loved making this recipe, in spite of how hard it was. We’d love to hear your thoughts on it too. Tell us what you think in the comments section below…