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Stargazy Pie

Introduction & method

This unique fish pie was invented in the Cornish village of Mousehole (pronounced Maow-zell). Legend has it that one very stormy winter the villagers were starving because the fishing boats couldn't go out. But one day the heroic Tom Bawcock did manage to get his boat out and his catch was baked into a huge pie for all the village to share. The heads of the sardines or pilchards were left sticking out to prove that there were fish in the pie.

Stargazy Pie Recipe

Make the Pastry

Skip this step if you're using store-bought pastry, but I always think home-made is better. Mix together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small chunks and rub it in with your fingertips until you have a coarse breadcrumb-like mixture. Now you need to stir in enough water to make the dough come together in a ball. You may not need all of the amount specified, or you may need a bit more. Just go steady with it. Wrap the dough in plastic fillum and place in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Prep the Fish

If you're lucky, your fishmonger will have prepped the whole fish for you. If not, snip off any fins with scissors, and also the tails unless you plan on having them poking out through the crust. Slit the belly open from head to tail. Press your thumb in at the tail end and move it up towards the head. Pull out the guts and discard. Use a knife to scraps off the scales starting at the tail end and moving up to the head. Rince the fish well under cold water. For your fillets of fish, make sure there are no bones left, and cut into bitesize chunks.

Boil the Eggs

Place the eggs in a small saucepan, cover with cold water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and turn off the heat. Leave for 7 minutes then immediately plunge into a bowl of cold water.

Cook the Sauce

Peel and dice the onion and sauté it in butter on medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Dice the bacon, add that to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the onion and bacon, melt more butter into the pan and stir in an equal amount of flour. Mix to form a paste then stir in the stock. When the mixture has thickened, lower the heat and add the cream, the herbs, and salt and white pepper if required. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Assemble the Pie

Find yourself something to bake the pie in - I used a fluted flan tin with a removable bottom (23cm, 9 inch diameter). Sprinkle flour on the worktop and roll out half of the pastry into a disc that's a bit bigger than your pie dish/flan tin. This will be the lid. Cut 6 slits or crosses in the pastry lid spaced evenly in a circle about 5cm/2 inches from the edge. Roll out the rest of the dough, coat generously with flour and place in the bottom of the tin with a little dough overhanging the edge. Stir the bite-sized chunks of fish into the sauce and spoon the mixture into the pie dish. Peel and quarter the eggs and position them over the filling. Now arrange the sardines with their tails in the centre of the pie. Press the bodies down into the filling and angle the heads upwards. Moisten the rim of the pastry base and then lay the lid over it. Feed the sardine heads through the slits that you cut earlier. Press the edge of the lid onto the base, trim off any excess pastry and crimp the edge together. Beat an egg together with a splash of milk and paint the pastry lid but not the sardines!

Heat your fan/convection oven or airfryer to 180°C (356°F), 200°C (392°F) for a conventional oven, gas 6. Bake the pie for 40 minutes.


The video above is from the Keef Cooks YouTube channel. Click here to see the video recipe of Stargazy Pie on YouTube.


Ingredients & Info

 250 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
 125 grams unsalted butter
 100 ml water
 1 tsp salt
 6 mackerel, sardines or pilchards
 340 grams fillets of cod, salmon, haddock
 250 ml fish stock
 150 ml double (heavy) cream
 1 medium onion
 3 rashers bacon
 3 eggs
 60 grams unsalted butter
 60 grams flour
 1 tsp dried parsley
 1 tsp dried dill


I bet you didn't know that sardines get promoted to be pilchards when they are 2 years old. But a mackerel is a mackerel for life and is a good sub if sarpilches are unavailable. The fish fillets can be whatever you like, all one type or a mixture. You'll also need some extra butter for sautéeing, and an egg and a splash of milk for glazing the pie.

US Customary/Imperial

Serves 6 
Prep time: 15 minutes.
Cooking time: 40 minutes.
Total time: 55 minutes.