Stargazy Pie—Cornwall’s Town-Saving Fish Dish

Gordon first described Stargazy Pie to me without showing me a picture. I was drawn in by the whimsical name and legend of a stormy night, a brave fisherman, and an entire town saved by a hearty fish pie. By the time I saw a photo of scaly fish heads and tails bursting through pastry, I was too convinced to back down.

On the Third Day of Imported Christmas, we used seven different types of fish to make our own Stargazy Pie.

Legend has it that the first Stargazy Pie was made in the tiny port town of Mousehole in Cornwall in the 16th century. After a series of particularly bad winter storms made it too dangerous for fishing boats to leave the harbor, the town was on the brink of starvation. Tom Bawcock braved the storm and caught seven different kinds of fish—enough to feed the village. The catch was baked into a huge pie with fish heads sticking out, gazing up at the stars.

Now, every 23rd of December, Mousehole celebrates Tom Bawcock’s Eve with free Stargazy Pie and a spectacular harbor light display.

Because the spectacle of fish sticking out is really the important element, it doesn’t really matter what kind of filling you make for your pie. A hearty stew with potatoes, fish (seven kinds, if you’re feeling very traditional), cream and herbs worked great for us. The most important ingredient is pilchards (sardines) or similar small fish poked through the top before baking.

We like fish pie and don’t mind it looking back at us while we eat it, so we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Someday we’ll have to go to Mousehole for Christmas for the real thing.

Interested in learning about more international Christmas traditions? Follow our 12 Days of Imported Christmas:

Twelve Days of Imported Christmas

  1. The First Day: Chichilaki—Georgia’s Shaved Christmas Tree
  2. The Second Day: Lotería de Navidad—Spain’s Communal Christmas Lottery
  3. The Third Day: Stargazy Pie—Cornwall’s Town-Saving Fish Dish
  4. The Fourth Day: Rellenong Manok—The Phillipines’ Elaborately Stuffed Christmas Chicken
  5. The Fifth Day: Himmeli—Finland’s Geometric Straw Ornaments
  6. The Sixth Day: Figgy Pudding—England’s Fiery Festive Centerpiece
  7. The Seventh Day: Glückspilz—Germany’s Lucky Mushroom
  8. The Eighth Day: Pumpple Cake—Philadelphia’s Quadruple Dessert
  9. The Ninth Day: Porchetta—Italy’s Decadent Pork Centerpiece
  10. The Tenth Day: Julkalender—Sweden’s Serialized TV Christmas Countdown
  11. The Eleventh Day: Peppermint Pig—Saratoga’s Shattered Sow
  12. The Twelfth Day: Ursul—Romania’s Bear Dance Festival

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