Had a uni friend over last night for a gossip, a catch-up and dinner. I’ve had a joint of salmon in my freezer since October and have been looking for an excuse to use it up, so decided to make salmon en croute last night. It’s really simple, but looks effective and seems pretty up-market so is a great choice for times when you have guests over – it’s particularly popular over the Christmas season. Another advantage is that you can make the croute early in the day, then just pop it in the oven 20 minutes or so before serving. The only thing you have to be careful about is not to overdo the dill – it’s quite strong and can end up overpowering the other flavours if you aren’t careful.
You can make your own puff pastry if you like, but it’s not something I’d bother doing – it takes an incredibly long time, and the ready-made versions you can buy are pretty good these days. Alternatively, you could use shortcrust if you’d prefer, but for me the combination of salmon and puff works beautifully. If you do use frozen salmon, defrost it for a couple of days in the fridge – it takes quite a long time, but thaws more evenly, and means that the fish retains its moisture.
Salmon en Croute
Fresh salmon joint or fillets, defrosted if frozen
2 or 3 large handfuls fresh spinach
2 sprigs fresh dill, stripped from the stalks
250g tub mascarpone
Salt and Pepper
Juice 1/2 lemon
1 beaten egg
- Remove any skin and bones from the fish. Try to remove even the tiny pin bones if possible. Cut into long strips and set aside.
- Chop the spinach and dill into very fine pieces. Mix with the mascarpone and season to taste. If you like, you can put it in a food processor and whiz it all together, but I didn’t bother.
- Roll the puff pastry into a long rectangle. Decide at this point whether you plan to do one long croute, or individual ones for each diner – it doesn’t make much difference which you go for. If you want to make individual parcels, cut the pastry into the right number of pieces.
- Lay a third of the salmon pieces over the pastry, and spoon a little of the mascarpone over the top. Repeat with the other pieces of salmon so you have 2 – 3 layers, each with spinach and dill between them. You should have used about half of the sauce by the time all of the salmon is laid out – save this for later.
- Trim the pastry if necessary, and wrap one side over the fish. Brush with beaten egg. Wrap the other side over and brush with beaten egg. Cut some slits all along the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape. Decorate with cut-out pastry remnants, if desired.
- Once you’re nearly ready to eat, preheat the oven to 180OC/350OF/Gas mark 4. I cooked mine on the pizza stone so it was nice and crispy on the bottom, but you can use an ordinary baking sheet if preferred – either way, place it in the oven to preheat.
- Tip the croute onto its side to ensure the bottom is well floured. Place in the oven and bake for around 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and a knife stuck into the middle of the salmon comes out hot.
- Add the juice of half a lemon to the remaining mascarpone and heat through. Serve the salmon with vegetables (we had chantenay carrots, broccoli and griddled flat mushrooms) and the mascarpone sauce.
- If you have any leftover pastry, roll it out flat and sprinkle with grated cheese and sesame seeds. Cut into strips, twist and bake until golden – they make great little cheese straws!