There are as many variations of this classic Cornish fish recipe as there is fish in the sea. Some recipes suggest use small mackerel, herring, and sardine, but we will use only one fish the humble pilchard.
One 8" (200mm) shallow pie dish.
6 to 8 pilchard. 2 eggs. 3 rashers bacon. 1 lemon.
One medium sized onion.
Salt and pepper to season, (sea salt for greater authencity).
Parsley and tarragon for flavouring and garnish.
Gut, clean and bone the fish, leaving on the heads and tails. (You may find the flesh is so fresh you can pull the backbone free just using your fingertips without needing a knife.) Take the onion. Finely chop. Chop into squares the bacon. Cut the lemon in half; set two slices from to one side for decoration. Squeeze and save the juice. Finely grind the rind. Boil until soft, not hard two free-range eggs. Cut into small dices.
Either mix and roll enough ingredients to make approx. 500g of shortcrust or flaky pasty. (We suggest if you don't have the patience buy some ready prepared frozen pasty from the your local supermarket. Cut the thawed pasty mixture into two halves.) Roll one half down to thickness sufficient to cover the base of your pie dish. Cut off the overlapped edges. Coat the edge with either milk or water to ensure the pasty lid will stick.
Either then: Carefully your pilchards, into the bottom of the dish arranging them, like the spokes of a wheel, around the edge of your dish. Place the mixed chopped onion, eggs and bacon in the gaps between the fish. Some recipes suggest stuffing the with half the finely chopped mixture, but given the small gut of the pilchard is it worth trying to do so? Add the lemon juice and cover with your pasty lid pressing down around the fish to seal the pie, trim the edges of overlapping pasty and crimping the edges in true Cornish style.
Or (and we find this more authentic) place all your chopped ingredients, including seasoning into the dish. Cover with pasty lid, trim the edges of overlapping pasty, crimp as above, then carefully cut slits into the pasty, hold open with blade of a knife, and gently push the whole fish into the slots, leaving just the heads or tails showing. Add the lemon juice and then seal the slits. Coat the now completed pie with a beaten egg.
Serve piping hot with sprig of parsley garnish and Cornish new potatoes.
Star Gazy Pie is a dish unique to Mousehole (a fishing village in West Cornwall with a most beautiful harbour). Prepared in the Ship Inn, ate on 23rd December- Tom Bawcock's Eve. Long ago Winter storms had prevented the fishing boats putting to sea. In a lull in the bad weather one of their number Tom Bawcock managed to catch enough fish to prevent the village from starving. A pie of many fishes was made from the catch -Star Gazy Pie.
Nowadays the village is famous for its Christmas Lights A spectacular and dazzling Display of Illuminations from Dancing Reindeer to Santa Claus, to Christmas Pudding complete with sprigs of holly. A church with music playing. A cross with two angels. And not forgetting a Star Gazy Pie in lights.
© Cornish Light
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