How to make a Stargazy pie

Updated July 20, 2017

Pilchards, also called Cornish sardines, are the oily fish at the heart of a Stargazy pie. The pie's unusual feature is that the fish heads poke through the pastry atop the pie, their eyes staring up at the stars. The origins of this Cornish delicacy are murky, but centre on the legend that the pie was first made with fish caught by one Tom Bawcock, whose catch was large enough to feed the whole village of Mousehole. Tom Bawcock's Eve is still celebrated every year on December 23rd in Mousehole, when Stargazy pie is served.

Melt the butter in the frying pan then add the finely chopped onion. Cut the bacon into 2-centimetre (3/4-inch) strips. Season the onion and bacon and sauté them until the onion is softened and transparent and the bacon is cooked.

Add the chopped parsley, wine and fish stock to the ingredients in the frying pan and sprinkle in the flour. Stir the flour into the liquid as you add it, making sure no lumps develop.

Arrange the pilchards in the dish so that the heads stick up over the edge. Halve the boiled eggs and put them in between the fish then pour the sauce over the fish and eggs.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 3 mm (1/8 inch) and shape it to fit the top of the pie dish. Cut slits in the pastry for the fish heads to stick through. Lay the pastry on the dish, inserting the heads through the slits. Glaze the pastry with milk and crimp the edges.

Place the pie in an oven preheated to 200 C (400 F, gas mark 6) and cook for about 45 minutes, until the pastry is golden.


Serve the pie with a seasonal green vegetable.

Things You'll Need

  • Frying pan
  • Pie dish
  • Rolling pin
  • 25 grams (1 ounce) butter
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 rashers smoked streaky bacon
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 250 ml (1/2 pint) fish stock
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, halved
  • 8 pilchards, cleaned with heads on
  • 225 grams (8 ounces) packet of puff or shortcrust pastry
  • 1 tbsp milk
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About the Author

Ken Macdonald lives in London and has been a freelance editor and writer since 1999. He has written on topics including travel, food and gardening for UKTV, Expedia and “The Guardian” website. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English studies from Stirling University in Scotland.