Stargazey pie, also known as starrey gazey pie or stargazy pie is a typical Cornish dish of England, UK that is prepared using baked pilchards (sardines) that poke their heads out of the top of the pie.
There are other variations of this dish that use many different kinds of fish, but what differentiates stargazey pie from others is the use of fish heads (and occasionally tails) that tend to stick out through the crust. They give the impression of gazing at the stars, hence the name.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Stargazeypie is believed to have originated in the village of Mousehole in Cornwall, in the 16th century. It is traditionally consumed during the festival of Tom Bawcock’s Eve. Tom Bawcock was a local fisherman and the festival is celebrated to acknowledge his efforts to relieve the village from a famine by going out to fish in a violent storm during a very stormy winter.
The dish initially prepared in the tale included sand eels, horse mackerel, pilchards, herring, dogfish and ling, along with a seventh fish. In a traditional pie, the main ingredient used is pilchard (sardine), and sometimes mackerel or herring are used as an alternate.
- Butter - 30g/1oz
- White onion (finely chopped) - 1
- Eggs - 2
- Leek (finely chopped) - 1
- Dry white wine - 3 tbsp
- Streaky bacon (smoked or unsmoked), finely chopped - 3 rashers
- Plain flour - 20g/¾oz
- Double cream - 300ml/10fl oz
- Saffron strands - a pinch
- Salt - 1 tbsp
- Fish stock - 250ml/9fl oz
- Fresh parsley, chopped - Small bunch
- Small mackerel, butterflied with the heads on (backbone and tail removed) - 6
- Freshly ground black pepper - to taste
- Puff Pastry - 200g/7oz
- Boiled new potatoes and green vegetables - to serve
- Begin by preheating the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.
- Now, take a pan and melt the butter over a low flame. Throw in the onion, leek, and bacon and let them cook until they are soft. Make sure to not turn them brown in color.
- Add in the flour to prepare a roux and allow it to cook for at least a minute. Stir in the white wine and fish stock, and remember to get rid
of any lumps. Wait for it to boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and let it cook for a further 5–10 minutes until the sauce gains a thick consistency.
- Now, add the cream and again bring it to the boil. Remember to keep stirring until you see the sauce thickening. Put in the saffron, salt, and some pepper, and make sure to also add the parsley and fold in the chopped hard-boiled eggs.
- The next step is to roll out the pastry to approximately 3mm/⅛in thick. Slice a long, 2cm/¾in wide strip of it. Moisten the border of a deep pie dish using water and press the pastry strip against it. Pour a little
bit of the sauce into the dish and place the mackerel on top. Make sure to position their heads on the boundaries of the dish. Pour over the residual sauce.
- Cut out a portion of pastry slightly larger than the size of the dish, and then cut slits in the pastry. Remember to make them big enough to stick out the mackerel heads.
- Now, cautiously lower onto the pie dish, and try to poke their heads through the pastry. Use a beaten egg to glaze the pastry and bake for
40–45 minutes. Wait until it turns crisp and is golden in color. Serve with new potatoes and green vegetables.