When people think of Easter, they usually think of chocolate eggs and lamb on Sunday. But did you know there’s a fishy tradition that dates to biblical times?

Eating fish on Good Friday – the day of Jesus's death – has been upheld since the early days of Christianity. Jesus is thought to have sacrificed his flesh to save humanity, therefore Christians abstain from eating meaty flesh like beef, pork, or poultry.

The medieval church technically invented “Fish Fridays” by making it a rule that the meat of a warm-blooded animal mustn’t be eaten on Good Friday, so fish was often opted for as a favourable alternative. (Not a rule we disagree with by the way! 

It was only in the 1960s that the Pope softened this hard-fast ruling into more of a guideline – citing those Christians with little access to fish. (Sadly, the Online Seafood Market wasn’t yet invented.)

What fish to cook on Good Friday is entirely down to the chef’s discretion. But in the UK, it’s become somewhat of a Good Friday tradition to cook up a crowd-pleasing fish pie.

Few dishes offer a more comforting, feel-good way to kick off the long weekend. Better still a fish pie can be made in advance and then frozen so that all you have to do is pop it in the oven and heat it up. For our Rockfish guide for the ultimate fish pie, read on.

The fish

A fish pie is a very adaptable dish – you can use pretty much any seafood. The key, however, is to use a firm yet flaky white fish as your base – we recommend coley.

Coley is an exceptionally affordable, yet unbelievably tasty fish. To eat a coley is much like a cod or a haddock, yet it’s often sidestepped by fishmongers for its slightly off-putting look when uncooked (the flesh of a coley is a grey-blue when raw). Our advice: don’t be a coley snob. When it comes to fish pie base there are few fish more appropriate or sustainable.

Next, you want to layer in some smoked fish. We suggest haddock. When it comes smoked haddock, the place to go is Grimsby, and when in Grimsby the place to go is Alfred Enderby's, who with over 100 years experience are the absolute experts.

Naturally smoked overnight in their traditional brick smokehouse to allow for a fuller flavour, their smoked haddock is recognised internationally and has Protected Geographical Status. As you can tell we’re super fans! So much so they even named a smoker after Mitch.

Finally comes your flare. This is the posh bit. The colourful addition. Some people add mussels, and lobster if you’re feeling very extra, prawns are great – if you can get them in season. We’ve recently swapped out salmon for chalk stream trout, we promise you can’t tell the difference and it’s much better for the environment. Another new thing we’ve recently tried is scallops, we agree, we thought it was crazy too. But those meaty parcels of deliciousness add a certain edge to the traditional pie. Whatever you do, be confident and have fun, provided you’ve got your base right you can’t go wrong.

Can’t decide? At Rockfish we’re happy to take on the hard work of fish picking, as we’ve developed a ready-to-go fish pie mix filleted, sliced, and ready for saucing... 

The white sauce

Believe it or not, there are nutters out there who don’t make a white sauce for their fish pie. Instead, they fry shallots in butter, before deglazing them in white wine and vermouth and then soaking in fish stock to make a sort of oniony-fishy-vermouthy sauce.

If you’re feeling edgy – be our guest. But if you’re looking to please a crowd we prefer a good and simple white sauce.

Our recommendation is a good old-fashioned pint of whole milk. Jersey if you can get it, or better still 100% pasture fed only.

Poach your fish in milk with a bay leaf for about five minutes. Then drain off the milk into a jug and put the fish in a bowl. Melt butter in a saucepan and add a few tablespoons flour, stir it in well then gradually pour on the milk whilst stirring until you get a smooth creamy sauce. Some people like you add nutmeg at this point. We agree it can lift the sauce just a little, but it’s in no way necessary. We like our sauce to be a backdrop to the glorious seafood, not the main event.

The topping

We’ve seen crumble toppings, and puff pastry, short crust and doughballs. Let’s all be honest for a second, nothing soaks up the luxuriously thick sauce of a fish pie than a layer of buttery mash.

Place fish and sauce into an oven-proof dish, layer a comforting mash on top, grated cheese for a crunchy twist, perhaps even a bread crumb if you want to go the full nine then pop in the oven for 10 minutes, lovely.

Voilà, you’re on the road to some very happy faces.

Freezing fish pie

Perhaps the best thing about fish pie is that it freezes exceptionally well. You can create your comfort-food masterpiece, whack it in the deep freeze and bring it out the day of when your hungry guests are due.

It’s good to know that even our frozen fish, despite having been frozen before can be refrozen. This is because we blast freeze all our fish at super low temperatures, therefore not damaging the meat’s cell wall, allowing it to be re-frozen safely.

To ketchup or not to ketchup? 

Those elegant amongst us will of course serve their fish pie with lightly steamed veg and perhaps some chopped parsley to garnish. In secret of course, we’ll be lit by fridge light at midnight helping ourselves to great tablespoonfuls with a dollop of bright red ketchup on top! Enjoy.