Crumble or Potato Topped Fish and Bacon Pie?

Potato Topped Fish and Bacon Pie, with hard-boiled eggs

There’s no contest. Or, at least that’s how the opening line was going to be for this particular post. Let me explain; probably around this time last year (or a little earlier) I happened upon a couple of recipes for savoury crumbles – something that had never crossed my mind to make. One of them was definitely a post by Kiki of DINNER FOR (N)ONE. Which I completely forgot about when I wrote a post on what had happened to my failed attempt at making one several weeks later. To the extent I didn’t even go with a recipe, the overall taste and texture was that terribly unexciting. Not that that’s a reflection on Kiki’s post, I hasten to add. Remember, I’d forgotten about Kiki’s post by the time I got around to making mine. The idea was there, however. Yet, any combination of ingredients that might’ve worked seemed to allude me – still do. To the extent I was going to give up on the idea after two more failed attempts last weekend. Until the Sunday. When I decided to use a little of a freshly made filling with a more normal, for me, topping using literally only self-raising flour (AP with baking powder already added) and unsalted butter. Wow! Perfection – almost. The filling was in fact letting the topping down. Yikes!

There were several problems with the other two attempts. Soggy I don’t do. Regardless of what it is. Fruit crumble tends to be that wonderful combination of crisp topping with a little touch of crumble that gets a tad soggy underneath. That I’m fine with. With the savoury crumble there was too much sauce causing the crumble to soak it up leaving hardly any crunch on top. So, second attempt this time around was baking the crumble topping separately and then that was added on top when both it and the filling were piping hot. Hmm, that did help to sort out the sogginess. What wasn’t working was the inclusion of polenta (cornmeal), for the topping, I was eagerly using for the first time. It’s texture was nicely crunchy – if you imagine leaving the window open next to your food and half the sandy beach at the end of the street ends up on your plate. That sort of crunchy. Yes, its crunch really irked! Delicious in my polenta bread, I have to admit. That’s why, out of frustration, I ended up going with simplicity. Especially as I’d planned on baking a fruit crumble later on Sunday evening, which is why I kept to just two ingredients for the crumble, knowing that sugar and spices could be added.

Regardless, I’m thrilled that I persevered with the idea of a fish and bacon crumble. As there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just a matter of choosing the right mix of ingredients to go with. Ahem, whenever! Enough of all that. For this post I’m sticking with potatoes for the topping. With the fish and bacon pie as is it’s fairly basic. A beefed-up white sauce purely to include certain vegetables lurking in my cupboard – especially one of my least favourites, carrots. And the usual broccoli stalk I always seem to have to hand. Yes, there’s a little bit of bacon (which I seldom eat) included in the pie. Prawns/shrimp are always great in fish pie, along with differing types of fish. Here, I’ve simply gone with frozen Pollack that has loads of flavour. Definitely impressed with it. Not so with the fresh parsley! It tasted like it had been on an 18 – 30 holiday all season and was invariably exhausted. There is, ultimately, something incredibly soothing and comforting about this type of food. It’s as good as a chicken, leek and bacon (oops, bacon again?!) risotto made the previous weekend/month, I think. You know, the type of dish that melts taut shoulders into submission. With every bite relaxation has a chance, eventually!

Potato Topped Fish and Bacon Pie



  • 400ml (0.846 pint) x cold water
  • 1 x organic vegetable stock cube
  • 1 – 2 x onions, peeled, trimmed and quartered
  • 2 – 3 x organic garlic cloves, peeled, trimmed and kept whole
  • 1 x dried bay leaf, split
  • 5 – 6 x whole black peppercorns
  • 1 x broccoli stalk, trimmed and split in half lengthways
  • 2oog (7.055 oz) x carrots, peeled, trimmed and roughly chopped (can be used after for carrot & parsnip mash)
  • 240g (8.466 oz) x parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into large chunks (can be used after for carrot & parsnip mash)
  • 1 x celery stalk, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped – optional
  • parsley stalks, a couple if they’re to hand


  • 2 x tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 x tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 3 x tablespoons plain (AP) flour
  • 200g + (7.055 oz) x frozen Pollack fish fillets
  • 60g (2.116 oz) x cooked bacon bits, more to personal taste
  • 1 x organic hard-boiled egg per person, shelled and chopped
  • handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • about 8 roasted and skinned hazelnuts, finely grated – optional
  • seasoning, both freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, to personal taste (remember to taste after the fish is cooked as it might be salty already)


  • 400g + (14.11 oz) x salad potatoes, scrubbed, kept whole and boiled until cooked
  • butter, to personal taste
  • single/light cream, to personal taste
  • seasoning, to personal taste

FOR THE CRUMBLE (if anyone’s interested. It’s not the crumble in third photo from top of post):

  • 100g (3.527 oz) x self-raising flour (AP with baking powder already added)
  • 75g (2.64 oz) x unsalted butter

Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.


  • Add all of the stock ingredients to a large saucepan with lid and put on electric heat No 4 (out of 6.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat to No 2 and simmer for at least 30 minutes. If serving carrot and parsnip mash retrieve those and set aside. Otherwise, strain the stock through a suitable metal colander into a bowl. Mash the remaining vegetables with the back of a metal serving spoon to extract as much valuable juice and nutrients as possible. Set stock aside.
  • Add the oils and flour to a heavy-based saucepan on low heat only. Allow about 5 minutes to cook out the flour. Any signs of bubbling take off heat and allow to cool as the roux must not turn brown.
  • If using frozen fish fillets I prefer to place them in a large saucepan with just enough cold water to cover. Put that on heat No 3 and bring to near simmering. Carefully strain the water (which will be loaded with salt glaze) and place the partially cooked fillets in very cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
  • Cook the bacon and eggs if using. Put the potatoes on to boil. When cooked drain and mash with as much or as little butter and cream as needed. Season with both sea salt and pepper.
  • Put the roux back on heat No 3 and start to add some of the strained stock. Stir continuously until the sauce starts to thicken. Add more stock to gain the consistency needed. I prefer the sauce to be wet as the potato topping will soak up a certain amount of it.
  • Preheat oven to 200°C or 392°F.
  • To assemble the pie: grease an oven suitable dish/casserole with butter. Pour in the sauce to about 2/3 of the way up. Flake over the fish, cutting up any parts of the fish that won’t flake easily. Add the bacon, eggs, parsley and hazelnuts if using. Taste for any needed seasoning. Carefully add large spoonfuls of the creamy mash on top, without pressing on the topping unnecessarily. Place in the centre of a preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the topping is nicely golden and the interior of the pie is piping hot.

All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) Kitschnflavours:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnny Hepburn

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  1. It’s really comfort on a plate, it’s either a pot pie or a casserole but either way it sounds delicious. The photo with the crumble topping looks perfectly good, the topping looks crisp and crunchy at least in the photo. I love the mashed potato topping kind of like a shepherds pie. Bacon and fish, creamy mash it’s heavenly.

    • We just call them pies over here. It’s generic for anything that’s pie shaped. These are usually served large, like shepherds pie. But, can be individual servings. Nice that way for a starter or fish course. And really must elaborate on how to make mash! Everyone has their favourite way, I suppose. Mine is rough and chunky with the skins kept on. Lots of cream and butter, though. Just as well I don’t make them often :)

  2. I love fish pies, particularly if they’re made with a cheesy crumb topping. This one looks great though, the savoury crumble sounds wonderful as an offset to the moist creaminess of the fish and cream sauce. Love the addition of hazelnuts. Hope you’ve been well Johnny, it seems like it’s been a while!

    • Isn’t it funny. pantryobsession, who commented after yours, would ‘plonk loads of cheese in with it’. I do love melted cheese, but with savoury, if those flavours really do stand alone (as is the case here), then I won’t be smothering any pie with the stuff. Including most of my pastas and risottos. I would only ever grate lots of cheese over something incredibly simple that needs a more complex flavour profile. Or that umami sensation.

      Hmm, tis the weather for melted cheese over here! And I’ll be baking my walnut bread again today. Will have to have a nosy out food shopping. As one of the things I’m supposed to be doing with the posts on ‘quick’ breads is pairing them with differing cheese – something for the weekend, then!

  3. I really do like the look of this. I love the potato topping and knowing me, I would have plonked loads of cheese in with it – but that’s just me! I do like the way you make your mash potato!

    • Thanks for that! Funny, a friend over from Houston (originally from Edinburgh) a few years ago mentioned, ‘ooooh, you’ve made your mash with cream’, instead of milk. Too right. As a kid the only reason for getting out of bed so prompt during winter was to grab most of the cream off the top of the freshly milked milk for my porridge. Let’s face it, I really was doing the others a favour!

      • That’s really funny! I always make my mash with cream! But yes, I’m actually old enough to remember the milk man dropping off bottles of milk and leaving them on our front door step. I could hear the horse coming down the street – the dairy was just around the corner – always with an extra dollop of cream for my dad and me :) nice memories :)

  4. I agree, this truly is comfort on a plate! I’ve already found one of your other blogs so I will go hunting for the blogger one :)

  5. I thought I was looking at dumplings and something, and I thought it looked really delicious. After I found out it was fish, I thought it still looked really delicious. You may have helped me become a convert, Johnny! Can it be? I, a fish lover? If you keep publishing this kind of posts, I might become one! Looks really delicious!! <3 Angie.

    • Hah! And there I thought the food on the plate in the background (within lead-in photo) resembled scrambled eggs! My littl’ camera seems to be on its last legs.

      You may or may not convert if trying this particular fish. Pollack is similar to most other white fish, but is far stronger in flavour. In my opinion, anyway. Could be the product bought. I wonder if you like seafood. We tend to differentiate between the two. Personally, I adore both. With this type of dish I would far prefer prawns subbed for the bacon. Maybe I’ll try a vegetarian version of this. With tofu? Never been keen. Perhaps seitan, something I’ve never had before.

  6. Thanks for the mention :-) Even though I don’t eat fish, this looks really good! I’m glad you found a good combinationi of basic ingredients, topping and sauce. As you know, my savoury crumble really could have profited from a sauce, so I might make use of yours minus the fish next time…
    By the way, I would be the person who would click the links to your new blogs! Do I need to search the web or will you point me towards the URL?? :-D

    • Arrgh, have just lost my response! This is what I’m loathing about blogging right now!

      Yes, knew I should’ve linked to both newish blogs. Apologies for that. and Especially as all of my links are now underneath my Gravatar at end of post.

      Couldn’t help but notice last night that your savoury crumble topping was kept to the bare minimum (as in ingredients used), which was how my third attempt was. That seems to be the way to go. Really must try and come up with flavour combos that might suit. Have been developing a vegetable burger most of this week which hasn’t worked. Fortunately, my baking seems to be more productive :)

  7. Oh, I’m looking forward to a veggie burger! That’s been on my to do list for some time, but I haven’t even started thinking about ingredients.

    • This post I found inspirational:

      Although I haven’t tried it, as yet. I was going with the idea of cauliflower and root veg as it’s this time of year. All the stuff I love to gorge on as sides for a roast lunch. Slight problem in that I don’t have a food mill. Nor a fancy food processor. The prep involved by hand, as in grating most of the ingredients, is so involved I’d rather spend the time buying in shop-bought! Hmm, not really :)

      Huh, and there I thought links went in auto. Oops.

  8. Funny, I’ve never been a fan of creamy fish, but your photos just might convert me! Have you tried adding a hard cheese (like pecorino) to a crumble? I’d be interested to know how that would turn out.
    Wow, two new blogs, have fun with them!

    • One of the local stores has just started selling pecorino! I’ve yet to try it. No, it’s not cheese that’s missing. The crumble turned out really well the third attempt. It just didn’t go brilliantly with the filling, that’s so much better off with a potato topping. The filling really needs to be slightly crunchy. Or a side of veg that would still retain their crunch. Still haven’t come up with other ideas.

      Ah, there are two new blogs for a reason. Over an hour to try and upload three small step-by-step photos to WP as I write is no joke. It’s become unbearable to use with my system. So! As I don’t have the same problem with Blogger I may have to switch.

  9. I’m not much of a fish eater, but this fish and bacon pie really looks good. I love the potatoes and other vegetables in it… hazelnut is quite a pleasant surprise ingredient. :p

    • As I don’t eat a lot of meat I do like to supplement my intake of protein with fish, especially oily. Unfortunately, as I can’t buy same day as caught fresh fish, and as there’s a very limited selection of canned this is where this recipe comes in. Partly as it’s easy to make. And comforting as well. As for the vegetables! It does seem a tad extreme to have to include – and effectively hide – certain vegetables from myself! I did have this with carrot and parsnip mash, both poached in the beefed-up stock. As for the hazelnuts, they’re so good with white fish.

  10. Love this Johnny and just wish you’d make it for me!
    Interesting post – is Blogger that much better to use? Your blog on Blogger definitely looks fantastic.But I didn’t quite follow about the photographs – so are you saying the photographs look better on Blogger? I’m curious.

    • You know, I never get to cook for others. I used to really enjoy that. Not for the compliments, although those were always nice to get. It’s that aspect of sharing that I miss.

      As for Blogger, the photos are probably compressed (as yet I haven’t bothered to check). They certainly used to be when I was using it several years ago. That’s the reason I switched to WP. In fact, the only reason. Right now the harsh reality stands with impossible problems faced with uploads! I spent over an hour trying to upload three small step-by-step photos to WP last night. As yet, and okay I’ve only used Blogger again for maybe five posts so far, every single photo has gone up first time. Go figure that one! WP just doesn’t seem to be written for anything other than iP users these days. Maybe I’m wrong. Certainly was the case with Pinterest, until recently.

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