I made salmon en croute for Christmas Eve dinner – the plan was to have a quiet evening in, just me and my (grown up) children. We normally go out to eat on Christmas Eve because it’s my birthday. But this year was a big birthday and I had a party the week before so all I wanted to do on the actual day was stay in, listen to music while I enjoyed cooking and then after dinner play some games.
I chose fish as we were eating roast beef on Christmas day and decided to make salmon en croute as I had never made it before. Yes it is a bit retro, but I like retro. Just before I started cooking I had a long telephone conversation with my oldest best friend and turns out she was having salmon en croute too – but from Marks & Spencer. I couldn’t help feeling just a bit smug.
I more or less followed a Jamie Oliver recipe (transcribed below for convenience) but went a bit wrong at one point because instead of cutting open the fish like a book (keeping a hinge on one side) I sliced it in half and inserted the filling like a sandwich. I had to do this because my salmon cut was wide but thin. This was a bit of a problem because the filling started to ooze out so I very quickly had to get the pastry rolled out and encase the whole thing. I used bought puff pastry because that’s what all the TV cooks say they do – but next time I’m going to have a go at doing my own pastry.
I love the bit where you brush the beaten egg all over the pastry and score the top with a sharp knife. When it came out of the oven it looked brilliant (if a bit top heavy with pastry and the front – you live and learn). So satisfying. It tasted great too – the fish was well cooked, succulent and not at all dry.
I made a different sauce to the watercress sauce Jamie recommends (as I used up all my watercress in the en croute filling). Instead I used a bag of ready bought, ready washed mix of spinach, watercress and rocket which I whizzed up in a blender and added lemon juice and three tablespoons of creme fraiche. Delicious.
The dish was beautiful served hot with green beans and griddled courgettes and with a fantastic English wine – a 2016 Pinot Gris (a birthday present from a friend who lives practically next door to the vineyard) – really this wine was extremely good. Now I’m planning a vineyard tour and some wine tasting. See www.charthamvineyard.co.uk
Next day the salmon en croute was just as lovely cold.
- olive oil
- 2 banana shallots
- 100 g baby spinach
- 1 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 200 g baby leaf watercress
- 1 knob of butter
- 1-2 lemons
- 1 whole nutmeg , for grating
- 200 g crème fraîche
- 1 x 500 g thick, skinless salmon fillet, pin-boned, from sustainable sources
- 500 g puff pastry
- 1 large free-range egg
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper and brush it with a little oil.
- Peel and finely chop the shallots, roughly chop the spinach, then pick and chop the parsley leaves. Chop half the watercress, leaving the rest whole.
- To make the filling, warm the butter and a splash of oil in a pan over a low heat. Add the shallots and cook for 10 minutes, or until soft but not coloured.
- Add the spinach, parsley and chopped watercress to the pan with the zest and juice from 1 lemon. Season to taste and stir in a good grating of nutmeg.
- Cook down the leaves for 3 to 5 minutes, then mix in 1 tablespoon of the crème fraîche.
- Tip it into a sieve set over a bowl and press to squeeze out the juices. Leave the filling to cool.
- To make the sauce, blitz the remaining watercress and crème fraîche in a food processor with juices from the bowl. Season and add more lemon juice to taste. Transfer to a bowl and chill until needed.
- Slice the salmon fillet in half sideways, so you can open it like a book.
- Spoon the cooled filling down the middle, fold the fish back over to close and set aside.
- Cut the pastry in half and roll out each piece to the thickness of a pound coin and about 2cm wider than your salmon.
- Place one piece on the baking tray and lay the salmon on top in the middle. With your finger, dab water around the edge of the pastry, then lay the other piece on top.
- Mould the pastry around the fish with your hands, then press the edges with a fork to seal. Score the top with a knife, then beat and brush over the egg.
- Bake the salmon in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp.
- Serve with the watercress sauce – delicious with a green salad and new potatoes.
For dessert I made a pavlova – also a bit retro but fairly easy to make, festive and always looks impressive. Recipe on this blog soon.