Salmon en Croute served

S is for Salmon en Croute

This evening’s blog, despite having a rather impressive French name (Salmon en croûte literally meaning ‘crusted Salmon’) is actually very simple to prepare and cook. Quite frankly, anything wrapped in golden, cooked puff pastry looks great, so when you cook this for guests they never need know how easy it is to actually assemble. I use this word, as this recipe is more of an assembly job than actual cooking.

This recipe is for 2 (greedy) people, but if you want to make a bigger one, just double (or triple) up the ingredients. A large salmon en croûte makes for a great centrepiece when you’ve got a few guests round for a dinner party.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 (240g) fillets of salmon – skins cut off (ask your fishmonger to do this, else use a small knife and do it slowly and carefully yourself so as not to waste any of the flesh)
  • 250g puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge from frozen is fine)
  • 130g spinach (young leaves, freshly washed)
  • 5 chestnut mushrooms (finely sliced, and then sliced again into very small cubes/morsels)
  • 1/2 large onion – finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp crème fraÎche
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Oil (anything flavourless)
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 egg

Mushrooms and onions frying  Mushrooms, spinach and creme fraiche

Recipe:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Over a medium heat, melt the butter in a frying pan with the oil (this stops the butter burning), then add the onion and mushroom and leave to fry off for 5 minutes.
  3. Once everything has softened and the onion has become translucent, add the spinach and turn the heat down low. Leave to wilt – this will only take a moment or two if you carefully mix the spinach into the mushrooms and onions with a wooden spoon.
  4. Once wilted, add the juice of half the lemon, a pinch of salt, a couple of turns of pepper and crème fraÎche and mix together for a moment. Then take off the heat and put the mixture in a sieve over a small saucepan (no heat underneath is needed). Leave the liquid to drain off (but do not discard) and the spinach and mushroom mix to cool slightly. The reason this is cooled now is because if the mixture went onto the pastry hot, the butter in the pastry would melt and you could end up with a gooey mess.
  5. Whilst you’re waiting for this to cool, it’s time to prepare the pastry. On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to just under ½cm thick. The width should be big enough that it accommodates the salmon filets with a 2cm borden. The length should be enough, so that the pastry can be folded over and encase (or ‘crust’) the salmon. Transfer the pastry to a baking tray.
  6. Season the salmon with a sprinkle of salt and pepper on both sides. Then place the fillets on one half of the pastry. Take the spinach mix and carefully spoon this  over the fillets, ensuring it ends up on the salmon rather than falling onto the pastry around it.
  7. Beat the egg in a small bowl. Using your finger, run some of the egg mix around the rim of the pastry – this will help the edges stick together when you fold it over.
  8. Fold over the empty half of the pastry carefully so the sides match up, then use a floured fork (the flour helps it to not stick to the pastry) to imprint the edges and seal your parcel.
  9. Gently score the pastry in diagonals and brush all over with egg white. Trim to neaten the edges and place in the middle of the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the ‘croute’ has puffed up and is golden brown.
  10. When the salmon is ready, remove from the oven and leave to cool for a moment before slicing and serving. In the meantime reheat the sauce that you reserved from spinach/mushrooms. Add another dollop of crème fraîche and mix together. Serve the salmon with the sauce and some steamed vegetables of your choice.

Salmon on Croute pre-oven  Salmon en Croute - cooked

Salmon en Croute served

Red-wine braised lamb shanks - serving

R is for Red wine braised lamb with chorizo

This weekend I was lucky enough to have a friend round for dinner, so decided to slow cook something i.e. put in the merest effort in the preparation and then happily left the food to its own devices  (producing some powerful flavours) whilst we watched a film and caught up.

The recipe here is ideal for lamb shanks, but alas I couldn’t get any, so settled for cutlets. I have cooked it before with shanks and the only difference with the recipe here is that it needs 30minutes overall cooking time.

I’m very partial to a Rioja wine, but this time I used Barefoot’s Merlot, with it’s dark fruit flavours complement the meat very well. The key thing about the red wine is that you need to cook with one you enjoy drinking….after all you only use half a bottle in the recipe – you can’t very well leave the other half, it wouldn’t be proper

Barefoot Merlot

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 lamb cutlets – 2 per person
  • Olive oil
  • 400ml red wine
  • 200ml balsamic vinegar
  • 300ml beef stock
  • 1 bulb of garlic – cut in half horizontally
  • 125g chorizo (cut into chunks)
  • 2 carrots (peeled and chopped into 2cm slices)
  • 1 red onion (cut into wedges)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp of black peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 tbsp honey

Lamb cutlets - browning

Recipe:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Season the lamb with a little salt and pepper. Add the oil to a large frying pan, and once hot add the lamb cutlets (or shanks) and brown – turning every couple of minutes to ensure an even colour.
  2. Put a large ovenproof pan (with a lid) over a high heat and add the wine and balsamic vinegar and leave to boil for 5 minutes. Then add the browned lamb shanks, garlic, bay leaves, stock, paprika, peppercorns and 2 of the sprigs of rosemary.
  3. Leave the pan to come to the boil again (with the lid on). As soon as it reaches a boil, move to the oven and leave for 1hour 30 minutes. Set a timer and forget about it, whilst you enjoy the remaining wine…and perhaps another bottle.
  4. After the timer is up, take the pan out the oven. There may be an initial waft of balsamic vinegar as it escapes, but if you try the liquid now, you’ll notice the vinegar flavour has already mellowed a lot and there will be no trace of alcohol flavours. Add the chorizo, carrots, red onion and the remaining rosemary and return to the oven for another hour – again set a timer to be sure.
  5. After the hour is up, you’ll find the meat is almost falling off the bone. Using a slotted spoon remove the lamb, chorizo and vegetables – I put this on a platter and cover with tin foil to keep warm. Then put the remaining sauce over a high hob heat and boil for 10 minutes to further reduce and intensify the flavours.
  6. Serve up the meat, veg and a good slosh of the sauce with mash potato if you’re in the mood for it and presto – an impressive, warming and flavourful dinner.

Red-wine braised lamb shanks

Red-wine braised lamb shanks

Red-wine braised lamb shanks - serving

Quince Tarte Tatin - served

Q is for Quince Tarte Tatin

Quince

Quince is an old English fruit that is best described as a cross between an apple and a pear. It is not as fashionable as it once was and so is harder to come by, but is currently in season, so it’s worth asking at your local large supermarket or greengrocer. The fruit itself is hard and not particularly tasty raw, but once cooked it transforms from a green to a soft, sweeter pink flesh.

This fruit is typically used to make a jelly to be served with cheese or cold meats, but I wanted to be slightly more adventurous and create something with pastry and this recipe seemed to suit. In simply terms, a Tarte Tatin (which is traditionally made with apples) is a French upside-down tart – it’s cooked with the pastry on top and inverted to serve.

This dish is usually baked in a Tatin dish (a round, deep-sided and sloping sided metal dish), but if you don’t have one a skillet pan will work fine (as I have used).

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 – 8 quince
  • 1 lemon
  • 350g sugar
  • 40g butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 litre boiling water
  • sweet shortcrust pastry (shop bought is fine) – defrosted and chilled in the fridge

Recipe:

  1. In a medium pan add the water, half the sugar, the zest of a lemon and half the juice of a lemon.
  2. Peel, core and quarter the quince (I find a small knife easier for peeling quince than an actual peeler, but use whichever implement is easiest for you) and add the pan of water.
  3. Turn heat up high and bring to the boil. As soon as the pan is bubbling, clamp on a lid, turn the heat down low and leave to simmer for 8 minutes. The drain the pan and set the quince aside. The idea is to par-cook them – you don’t want them too soft yet otherwise they’ll lose their shape later.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.
  5. In the Tatin (or skillet) pan, add the remaining sugar and melt over a medium heat. You must not stir with a spoon yet, but can swill round. Just as the sugar has melted and is starting to go golden add the butter – now you can stir. Then take off the heat.
  6. Add the quince to the pan with the flatter faces down in a circular pattern around the Tatin tin. Drizzle over the remaining lemon juice and cinnamon.
  7. On a floured surface, roll out the sweet shortcrust pastry to about half a cm thick and cut to a circle that is just bigger than the Tatin dish and then place over the fruit.
  8. Push the edges down the side of the pan and then bake in the over for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling up the sides.
  9. Once out of the oven, leave to cool for 10 minutes, then loosen around the edges with a palette knife. Place a large plate over the dish and invert. A thump on the pan or a short but vigorous shake should completely release the pie onto the plate, showing all the fruit facing up. Don’t worry if one of 2 pieces are left in the pan – just remove them from the pan and squidge gently into the place in the pie.
  10. I serve mine warm with creme fraiche

Quince Tarte Tatin

 

Quince Tarte Tatin - served