Monday, 21 January 2013

Salmon en Croute

I had salmon en croute once at someone's house and it was absolutely disgusting.

The cook had failed to use any salt, because they are the sort of person who thinks that any salt kills you stone dead within weeks. My view is that you can either use a decent amount of salt in your cooking and run the extremely tiny risk of it doing you some damage, or you can use no salt and die of a) starvation b) boredom. And get some mean leg cramps in the night.

But there's no reason why salmon en croute shouldn't be a delicious thing. It's wrapped in pastry!! I mentally file this kind of thing under my "finishing school" category of cooking. Quiches and souffles are also filed under this category. Baked bone marrow and suet puddings are filed under "New British", curries and stir-fries go under "student", lemon meringue pie, soup, and devilled kidneys go under "yuk" and so on.

I consulted the internet for a good way to do this and came across something by Gordon Ramsay. I'm normally shy of things by Gordon Ramsay or Gary Rhodes or anyone who has spent more of their waking hours in a kitchen than they have outside; they make all sorts of insane assumptions about the domestic cook, like that they will have a fish kettle, or a sugar thermometer, or that they are cooking for 80 people.

But this looked really quite straightforward. And it was! And it was also delicious - I really recommend it. It looks fantastically fiddly and impressive but it was really very easy. It also has the tremendous advantage that you can do all of it in advance and then just shove it in the oven 1/2 an hour before you want to eat.

It also doesn't create a lot of mess and it doesn't stink your house out while cooking. So it's no wonder really that it was served at every dinner party during the 70s and 80s country-wide. So out, it's got to come back in soon. I say bring it back now.

Roughly Gordon Ramsay's Salmon en Croute
Serves 4 (with something on the side)

2 salmon fillets - if you can get the salmon from a fish counter or fishmonger who can take the skin off, otherwise you are going to have to do it yourself and you will most likely make a huge buggery mess of it. Trust me, I have a shimmering range of the most expensive fish-skinning knives available for purchase legally and I can't do it nicely

Small bunch of dill
1 tsp-ish chopped lemon zest
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard, yes I know this sounds weird but it works
about 40g butter at room temperature (this is important so just be patient with it)
salt and pepper
1 packet all-butter puff pastry from jus-roll (not just the puff, in the green packet, but the all-butter puff, in the gold packet)
*My sister has pointed out to me that in Waitrose, if there is no all-butter puff available in the chiller cabinet, Waitrose have their own all-butter puff available frozen. Thank you Harriet for this most useful tip.*
1 egg, beaten, in a small bowl

Preheat the oven to 200C

1 Make a herb butter by smooshing together about 2 tbsps of chopped dill with a large pinch of salt, about 7 twists of the pepper grinder and the butter.

2 Dry the salmon fillets well with kitchen paper to help the butter stick and then paste one upturned curvy fillet side with the herb butter and the other upturned curvy fillet side with the mustard. Then fit these fillets together to make a reasonably even shape - like a yin yang sign. Put this to one side.

3 Roll out your pastry to a thickness of a £1 coin. This is thinner than you think it is, so maybe just have a quick check. Put the salmon in the middle of the pastry. Brush the pastry with beaten egg and then fold the sides up over the salmon like you're wrapping a present (have flashback here to most awful Christmas present received). Don't overlap the two long ends of pastry too much otherwise you'll have a great ridge of pastry down the middle of the salmon, which will not look chic.

4 Trim the sides and ends as much as you need to and then tuck the ends in under the salmon. Roll your parcel over so the seam is underneath and place on a greased or non-stick baking tray. Mark three slits diagnoally across the back of the bundle to let steam escape.

5 Brush the whole thing over with more beaten egg and then sprinkle with sea salt and more pepper for good measure.

6 Bake in the middle of your oven for 35 mins. The recipe said 20-25 mins but it was still cool in the centre after that time and after 35 mins it wasn't overcooked or burnt - and I've got a mega mental fan oven that razzes the living shit out of everything - so you ought to be okay.

And that's it! When it comes out, slice on the diagonal and serve with something nice. A salad maybe, if that's not the most boring thing I've ever said.

I would say here that obviously this is nice because it's wrapped in pastry - how could it not be? But I know for a fact that pastry can only do so much.



  1. Sounds great and I have some salmon. But with skin on. Can't win them all.

    Is it worth sharing Mary Berry's genius method for getting fridge butter to room temperature in about two minutes? I think it is. Fill a bowl or something big enough to contain the butter you need with luke warm water (not hot, you'll just get melted watery butter), chop butter into lumps. big ones, put in water and leave for about 2 mins (I've left it less than that) and hey presto! Soft butter. Obviously drain the water away.

  2. Never buy pastry made with margarine - it's disgusting, life's too short not to eat butter!
    Fish is outrageously expensive in Australia - but this looks good enough to spend some dollars on and having just realised most of what I cook is "student" food, I think it's time I made a grown ups dinner.

  3. Having a sugar thermometer is the same as having a meat thermometer - one does the same job and if you cook meat, then it's a good and safe idea. I like salmon but never had it in pastry - only beef en croute which I thrilled with. Would rather have my carbs on the side.

  4. It was indeed delicious, but I see you have not quite managed to get the whole thing into frame in your photograph. Was it moving terribly fast? You should have asked for help, I could have cornered it and held it still, so you had time to get it all in.

  5. That looks so nice.
    Makes me wish I weren't vegetarian (don't start at me - I really cannot stand the taste of fish/meat and, having not eaten it since I was 3 and my parents thought I was "just going through a phase", it gives me horrendous stomach ache).

  6. That looks lovely, but you've given me an awful craving for Devilled Kidneys.

    And I have a sugar thermometer. I am obviously beyond saving.

  7. Smooshing is not a word. I looked.

  8. I do salmon en croute with creme fraiche mixed with loads of chopped fresh Basil, fresh black pepper, and nutmeg. It is immense!!

  9. Looks delicious, I love salmon en croute but have naver made it, maybe I will brave it now. As an aside, is that a Sophie Conran plate it's on? We have those plates, what marvellous taste we both have if so. Could they be called finishing school plates if they're smart enough for the en croute?! Katie x

  10. I know exactly what you mean about Gary Rhodes-I have several of his books and they still scare me half to death!

  11. I live in South East Ireland, a bit away from the coast. The supermarket fish here is awful to say the least & I have only recently found a good fish supplier so I'm really enjoying trying out new dishes. This one will be next on my list.
    I must admit I prefer Aldi fresh puff pastry to JusRoll since we don't get the gold pack JusRoll here. The Aldi one takes me back to childood days, crisp, buttery & delicious.
    Curries - Student food??? I think not!! A good curry is a thing of beauty & so rare, especially here in Ireland, they all taste like watered down Uncle Bens. Neck of lamb curry is the finest thing I've ever eaten or cooked.
    New British - Not so sure about devilled kidneys but will be trying it out. Suet puddings are delicious but my stomach gives me hell for days afterwards. But I'm going to try to get some oxtail & make something wonderful with it.
    Keep posting Esther. Both myself & my husband really enjoy your blog & all of Giles work also. Thanks

  12. The secret for skinning the salmon is to buy it frozen (or freeze it), then run the hot tap quickly over the skin side. Grab the corner and tear - it will rip off as easily as opening a zip.

    1. Barbara thank you for this excellent tip.

  13. You are right all food can only really be worth eating if it is seasoned properly and if you have a nice glass of wine to enjoy it with. I am glad Gordon's recipe is good too.

  14. Hi Esther. I've just started my own blog and I've name-checked this incredible recipe - just a small one, but it's here

    I've also linked through :)

    I really enjoy reading your blog - and not just for the recipes!

    Katie x

  15. I've made this before following Gordon Ramsey as he shows you on the telly. But I so enjoyed your post...I loved your comments about your fan oven (mine does the same) and the lack of an assumed access to a "fish kettle" feeding 80 people in your kitchen!!!
    Many thanks for clear advice.

  16. Thanks for that. I have some salmon and pastry and some frozen spinach - i wil smoosh some butter in that and hope for the best! Pastry, salmon, butter - cant be bad regardless.

  17. And yes - we can get all butter puff even in Asda! Not all of us can afford Waitrose u know.

    1. cool it with the class war please. this isn't the place