Stargazy Pie

Tom Bawcock wanted to show off his catch and not hide his fish under a pastry lid; but here the fish heads poke out from the pie crust for another reason. You don’t have to eat them (likewise the tails!) but as the pie cooks, these fishy extras all boost flavour. Ask your fishmonger to fillet the fish leaving the heads in place for this recipe. Keep the tails for similar effect. Serves 4 – 6 people.

Stargazy Pie


  • 25g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 rashers rindless streaky bacon, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp flour, plus more for dusting
  • 250 ml fish stock, made from the bones of the fish* see note below (or use bought fish or vegetable stock)
  • 300 ml double cream
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and quartered
  • 2 small potatoes, cooked and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 6 pilchards, herrings, or small mackerel, filleted with heads on, (bones reserved)
  • 200 g short crust pastry, rolled out to a thickness of about 3mm (or use recipe below)
  • 1 egg, beaten


  1. Step 1


    Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6.

  2. Step 2

    Heat the butter in a medium pan and gently cook the onion and bacon until soft. Add the flour and stir well, then slowly add the fish stock, stirring well to prevent lumps forming. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes to thicken.

  3. Step 3

    Add the cream, bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until reduced by ¼ and thickened, then season with salt and black pepper to taste.

  4. Step 4

    Cut the pastry to the same size as the pie dish.

  5. Step 5

    Put the parsley, chopped egg and potato in the pie dish and mix.

  6. Step 6

    Lay the fish on top of the potato mix then pour the sauce over the fish, with the heads facing upwards at the sides.

  7. Step 7

    Lay the pastry besides the pie dish and make slits that match where the fish heads are

  8. Step 8

    Lay the pastry over the dish and pull the fish heads through the slits. Make more slits for the tails and crimp the edges of the pie with your finger

  9. Step 9

    Brush the top with the beaten egg. Bake for 35-45 minutes until the pastry is golden.

  10. Step 10

    Fish Stock

    To make a quick fish stock, put about 400gr fish bones in a saucepan with a peeled garlic clove, a few fennel and coriander seeds and a few slices of celery and onion.  Top up with 850 ml of cold water, bring the pan to the boil and skim off any froth that collects.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Strain and put to one side until ready to use.

  11. Step 11

    For the pastry;

    225g plain flour

    100g chilled coarsely grated butter

    A big pinch of salt

    1. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
    2. Stir in the salt, then add 2-3 tbsp water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. Wrap in cling film and chill while preparing the filling.