Salmon en croute

Christmas came early this weekend. My brother and his family are overseas for the festivities this year, so my parents hosted an early Christmas dinner complete with crackers and party poppers. This little monster could not control her excitement at the wrapping…

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Helping with the gift wrap

…or the chimney…

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Helping clean the chimney. Yes, she is actually up the chimney.

…or the nativity scene.

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And frankly the baby Jesus got off lightly. A shepherd now resides down the back of the cabinet.

Meanwhile we went out and bought our Christmas tree. It got transported back home to Brum and is now festooned with tat.

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Trees and mistletoe for sale at Clives

No turkey for this Christmas dinner. I don’t think it’s particularly hard to cook a turkey dinner but it does require attention to timing, to multi-tasking, and all that other stuff which I am not currently in the mood for. So we went for a salmon en croute, which is impressive enough to be festive but incredibly easy to prepare.

You need two pieces of salmon – this is a whole side, divided into two. If doing this at home get your fishmonger to skin the fish for you. I skinned it myself which is hard if you’ve got rubbish knives (and ours are terrible). Once skinned, chop up a handful of dill, zest and juice a lemon, and leave the fish to marinade with salt and pepper for an hour or two.

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Salmon, dill and lemon…

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…now skinned and marinating

Next is the filling, which is just spring onion, spinach and soft cheese. I think ricotta may have been better but the original recipe called for low-fat cream cheese, so that’s what we used. Sweat the sliced onions in butter until soft, wilt in the spinach and the squeeze the lot in a colander to get rid of the excess water.

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Sweat off sliced onions before adding spinach

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Squeeze out as much water as possible

Next, beat the cheese into the veg and leave to cool.

I used ready-made puff pastry, two packs for this huge chunk of fish. Roll out and then place the base directly onto a lightly oiled baking tray. I used one with a lip, in case the fish decided to leak a few juices (which it did). Place one piece of salmon on the pastry, paste the filling on top then add the other salmon. Place the second pasty piece of top, seal the edges and brush with egg. Ta da!

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A fishy sandwich

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Sealed, glazed and ready to cook. I used a teaspoon to make patterns on the top.

This one baked at 180c for 1hr 10 minutes, which was waaay longer than the original recipe – but then we did have an ENORMOUS piece of salmon. Best way to test if it’s cooked is to place a skewer into the thickest part then place it on your lip – if it’s hot, it’s done.

The verdict: super easy and impressive, but perhaps a little lacking in flavour to be truly wow. Next time I’d use ricotta and perhaps make the filling a little more interesting…more herbs and lemon. A sea trout would be amazing cooked this way.

Salmon en croute

1 side of salmon, filleted and skinned, sliced in half

1 packet or handful of dill

1 lemon, zest and juice

salt and pepper

Knob of butter

8 spring onions, finely sliced

250g spinach

250g low-fat soft cheese

2x packs puff pastry

1 egg, for glazing

Marinade the fish in chopped dill, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper for a minimum of one hour. Pat dry. In a pan, sweat the onions in the butter until soft, then wilt in the spinach. Toss the lot into a colander and squeeze out the excess liquid. Put in a bowl and mix in the cheese, season. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 180c. Roll out the two pasty packs. Place one piece of pastry on a baking tray, place one piece of salmon in the middle, spread the filling on top. Place second piece of pasty on top and seal the edges. Brush with egg.

Bake until done – may take 40mins to over an hour, depending on the size of the fish. Test by placing a skewer in the thickest part; if it is hot to the lip, the fish is done.

Serve with aplomb.

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