A story in a dish, Stargazey Pie celebrates a heroic legend of Mousehole. The Cornish Chef recreates it for us all to enjoy.
Cornwall’s famous Stargazey Pie is so called because of the distinctive way the fish poke their heads out of the crust – as if they’re peeping out of the sea to gaze at the stars. It’s traditionally eaten on the 23rd of December, to celebrate Tom Bawcock’s Eve.
This version was created by The Cornish Chef, who recommends you go to a local fishmonger to get the main ingredients.
He says, ‘pilchards and sardines are much the same, only the size sets them apart, so ask for sardines if pilchards are off the menu. Shop local where you can! You can also buy online direct from Cornwall. I know a few online fishmongers local to me sell online and deliver chilled fish the next day all over the country.’
2 packs of shortcrust pastry
5-8 pilchards (depending on size) butterflied with heads intact. Sardines can be substituted
250ml fish stock
50g butter – Trewithen dairy
1 white onion finely chopped
6 rashers of smoked bacon diced – Tywardreath butchers
150ml dry cider – Cornish Orchards
300ml double cream – Roddas
1 heaped tbsp flour
1/2 bunch of parsley finely chopped
12 boiled quail eggs or 4 hen eggs quartered
1 egg beaten – St Ewe
Prepare the pastry
Preheat the oven to 190°c.
Lightly grease and line a deep pie dish with one roll of the pastry. Cover with a piece of parchment paper and half fill with baking beans or rice and bake for 15 minutes.
After this time, remove the paper and beans and cook for a further 10 minutes until the pastry is lightly golden and dried. Remove from the oven and place to one side to cool.
Making the filling
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a wide pan over a medium heat and cook the onion and bacon. When cooked but not coloured add the flour and stir through.
Increase the heat a little and pour in the cider before allowing to reduce by half and adding the stock and cream. Heat until thick and then add the parsley and season to taste before leaving to cool.
Assemble your pie.
Once the case and filling have cooled, assemble the pie by pouring the sauce into the case, studding with the boiled quail eggs and topping with the fish, arranging them so the heads are in the position you wish to display them.
Unroll the second sheet of pastry and cut off enough to cover the pie, reserving the off-cuts. Lay the sheet of pastry over the pie and score a cut for each head and feed it through (if needed, you can remove the head from the fish and poke through the opening instead), pinching the pastry closed around each fish. Repeat for all the fish and then pinch the pastry closed around the outer edge.
Brushing the pie top with beaten egg, and wrap each fish head with a little foil cap to stop them burning. Make a steam hole in the centre of the pie before baking at 180°c for 45 minutes, or until nicely golden and cooked through.
Find The Cornish Chef on Instagram. We’d love to see what’s cooking at your house. Share what you’re baking using #SeasaltNourish.