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Sardines are at once astonishingly abundant, sustainably fished, and full of omega-3s (the ultimate brain nutrient). In England, where large sardines are known as pilchards, they are also the basis for this astonishing savory pie.
This Cornish Pie is probably so called because the fishes' heads are left outside the pastry, gazing upwards. Originally they were arranged like this because the oil drained back into the pie, so nothing was wasted and the pie was moistened.
In some parts of Cornwall a mashed potato crust is used instead of pastry. Pilchards were once so plentiful in Cornwall that they were hung on lines to dry. Stargazey pie was a fun dish, made for special occasions, or to amuse children.
6 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs
150 ml milk (5 fl oz)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
3 tablespoon lemon juice, plus the zest
1 medium onion, chopped
6 pilchards, filleted with heads left on
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 rasher bacon, rinded and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150 ml dry cider (5 fl oz)
225 gram (8 oz) flaky pastry
Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk and leave to swell a little. Add the parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest and onion and mix well.
Divide this stuffing between the fish, spreading it over the flat fillets. Fold them over, then put them into a round ovenproof dish, tails downwards and with the heads on the edge.
Put the chopped eggs, bacon, seasoning and cider all around and in between the fish.
Roll out the pastry to fit the dish. Press on, leaving the fish heads exposed on the rim.
Bake at 220 °C/ 425 °F for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven to 190 °C / 375 °F and cook for a further 25 minutes.
You can use herrings or mackerel in place of the pilchards
—reproduced with the permission of the British Food Trust, www.greatbritishkitchen.co.uk