How to make a delicious seafood pie which will convert non-believers to the joys of fennel

Fennel divides us, says Melanie Johnson — we either love it or hate it. But if you've yet to decide which camp you're in, this pie might help.

It does have 
a distinctive aniseedy flavour — part of its charm — but if you find it overpowering, rest assured that the strength of that flavour mellows when cooked.

Recipe: Seafood and fennel pie

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

  • 4 fennel bulbs, hard outer layers removed, cut into matchsticks
  • 25g butter
  • 2 leeks, finely sliced
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 3tbspn plain flour
  • 500ml milk
  • 150g scallops
  • 240g haddock
  • 200g salmon
  • 200g king prawns
  • 100g crème fraîche
  • Handful freshly chopped parsley
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten, passed through a sieve

Seafood and fennel pie

Method

Preheat your oven to 200˚C/400˚F/gas mark 6.

In a large frying pan, gently fry the leeks and fennel in butter until softened. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix well, cooking until the juice has been absorbed. Sprinkle in the plain flour, mix well and, over a medium heat, add the milk a little at a time, stirring continuously. Once it’s all in, you should have a thickened white sauce. Stir in the crème fraîche and parsley. Season well and taste for balance. Set aside to cool.

Butter a large pie dish (about 25cm (10in) in diameter or smaller, but deeper) and arrange the chopped pieces of fish and shellfish over the base. Pour the leek-and-fennel sauce into the dish and use a spatula to spread it around evenly.

Cut the two sheets of puff pastry into 1in strips. Start with the centre pieces, weaving over and under, making a lattice pattern. It’s slightly fiddly, but relatively easy once you get started and, I think, worth it for the end result.

Once the pastry’s in place, brush the top with beaten egg and bake in the oven for about 30–40 minutes or until the top is golden. Serve the pie hot, with lightly dressed salad leaves on the side.