Fish and fennel pie with herb crumbs

Pastry-free pie: Fennel and fish make a classic combination.
Pastry-free pie: Fennel and fish make a classic combination. Photo: William Meppem
Dietary
Dairy-free

There's no pastry. There's no dairy. There's no gluten. What this creamy fish and fennel pie does have is bags of flavour and a brilliant green-herb crumb topping.

Ingredients

700g firm, white, skinned and boned fish fillets, such as blue-eye trevalla or bream

Sweet-potato pie crust

300g cooked sweet potato

1 tsp salt

1 egg, 60g, beaten

about 150g white rice flour

Fennel and dill pie filling

225g raw fennel bulb, thinly sliced

1 large onion, about 250g, peeled and sliced

3 large cloves garlic, peeled and mashed

50ml olive oil

50g rice flour

300ml almond milk or cow's milk

1 small bunch fresh dill or 2 tbsp dried

1 small green chilli

salt to taste

Herb breadcrumbs

300g stale gluten-free bread, or any sort you prefer

1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed

1 small bunch of parsley, just the leaves

1 tsp salt

25ml olive oil

pepper to taste

Method

1. For the sweet potato pie crust, mash the sweet potato well in a saucepan, then stir over heat until piping hot. Scrape into a bowl, let it cool slightly, then beat in the salt and egg until smooth. While the mixture is still hot, add the rice flour and mix well with a spatula at first, then your hands, until it forms a soft dough. It's fine to add more flour if it's a little too soft. Then wrap the dough well and leave in the fridge while you make the filling.

2. For the filling, put the fennel, onion, garlic and olive oil in a saucepan with 100 millilitres of water and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil then stick the lid on and cook for about 10 minutes, until the fennel and onion begin to wilt in the steam. Then remove the lid and cook for another five to 10 minutes until the water has evaporated and the vegetables are sizzling.

3. Sprinkle on the rice flour, stir well, then add the almond milk and stir until boiling and thick. Remove from the heat and stir in the dill. De-seed and finely chop the chilli and stir this through. Cover and keep in the fridge while you make the breadcrumbs.

4. To make the breadcrumbs, grind the bread and garlic to coarse breadcrumbs in a food processor, then add the parsley and grind again until everything turns a brilliant, rich green colour. Add the salt, olive oil and pepper to taste then pulse the machine briefly to mix the oil through. The crumbs are now ready to use, or can be stored in a bag in the freezer.

5. To finish, chop the fish into two-centimetre pieces and stir through the filling. Roll the dough out with a little rice flour and use it to line one large, oiled, deep pie tin, or small muffin pockets. Pile in the fish filling, sprinkle over the crumbs and bake at 190C or 170C fan-forced for about 40 minutes until piping hot throughout.