A Packet of Fish

I am not a confident fish cook, which is a shame since I love eating fish. However, over the years I have found and trialed a few recipes that – for me – are foolproof. I aim for a moist, flaky fish. So, most of the recipes I’ve accumulated use methods and additional ingredients that ensure that the fish is not overcooked and does not become dried out.

Wherever I go, I love exploring fish markets, even if it’s only down the street to my local fishmonger. In the back of my fishmonger’s shop, beyond the impressive array of seasonal fish and shellfish on ice, are a series of wooden planks on which sit spice-cured salmon fillets, ready for slicing. He is an enthusiast who goes well beyond conventional dill gravlax. He spices with beetroot, rhubarb, molasses, vodka, lychee, virtually anything that strikes his fancy and often with spectacular results. He also supplies me with wonderful fresh Scottish salmon.

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Salmon & Spinach Packet
This quick, simple recipe is for fresh salmon in a pastry packet (or en croûte, if we’re using French terms). There are any number of recipes for Salmon en croûte, flavored, topped or stuffed with pesto, mustard and basil (Gordon Ramsay), red pepper (Mary Berry), black olive tapenade and mozzarella (Jamie Oliver), with wild rice, etc. and encased in puff pastry, phyllo sheets or home made pastry crusts. I like the classic spinach and dill combination which remind me of Greek spanakopita – little spinach pies.

Serves 4

  • 1-1/2 lbs salmon fillet, skin removed
  • 2 cups chopped spinach, about 5-1/2 ounces
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2-1/2 Tablespoons Crème fraîche or sour cream
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • puff pastry sheet large enough when rolled out to wrap salmon and spinach, approximately 8 oz.
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lemon cut into wedges

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Wash, dry and coarsely chop your fresh spinach. It is important that your spinach be as dry as possible. Put this into a mixing bowl. Finely chop your dill and add this and the salt to the chopped spinach. Mix in the crème fraîche or sour cream until it coats the spinach and dill. Set this aside while you prepare the puff pastry sheet and salmon.

I use store-bought puff pastry sheets and keep them cold in the refrigerator until ready to use. You will still need to roll them out (dusted with a little flour) to create a rectangular sheet that will completely enclose the fish and spinach mixture. I usually roll this out directly onto a sheet of baking parchment (or aluminium foil).

Beat an egg in a small bowl and set aside. With your hands, layer on the spinach mixture in the center, pressing down slightly and cover an area roughly the size of your fillet. Lay the skinned fish top side down after having removed any bones.

Now you are ready to assemble. Brush the edges of the puff pastry with the egg. Bring the short sides of the puff pastry up to cover the ends of the salmon, pinching slightly at the areas where pastry meets pastry. Brush with egg again and then place the long sides of the pastry up and over the salmon, brushing with egg and pinching where two sides meet. Carefully turn the sealed packet over. Score the top lightly into sections for servings, being careful not to cut all the way through the pastry. Brush the entire surface with egg.

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Place the baking parchment with the packet of fish onto a cooking sheet. I use a large cookie sheet with a short rim all the way around to catch any juices that might escape, ensuring they do not burn on the bottom of the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes. The crust should be golden and the fish and spinach topping will be cooked, but still moist. Cut along the pre-scored lines and serve with lemon wedges.

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