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

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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

O is for Orange and Fig Muffins

I wanted to make something sweet this weekend, and then conveniently stumbled across this recipe for orange and fig muffins. As a huge fan of fig-based food (except fig rolls – who eats those?) I had to give this recipe a go.

Having cooked dinner for a friend last week including figs with greek yogurt and honey for dessert, I learnt that being a fig fan is more of a minority than a majority (given the amount of left overs). So apologies if you aren’t a massive fig fan; however these muffins are deliciously light, fruity and sweet so please try at least once.

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Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 – 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 175g butter, softened
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 200g fresh figs, stalks discarded, chopped into 1cm pieces, plus 1 whole fig for decoration
  • 2 tbsp clear honey

Recipe:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. If you have muffin cases, line 8 holes of a deep muffin tin or 12 holes of normal sized muffin tin. If you don’t have any muffin cases, grease the muffin tin holes well with butter and dust lightly with flour.
  2. Place the softened butter in a large bowl with the sugar and beat together until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the beaten eggs and sifted flour a bit at a time (I did it in three turns) and fold in. The idea is that the flour doesn’t go everywhere and you’re not beating all the air our the mixture.
  4. Finally fold in the orange zest and chopped figs and ensure evenly distributed.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases – if not using muffin cases fill to near the top of the brim of the muffin tin hole. Place a final slice of fig on the top of each muffin. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until risen and golden brown on top. You can check the muffins are cooked by piercing with a knife and checking it comes out clean.
  6. Whilst the muffins are cooking, heat the honey and orange juice in a small pan over a gently heat until slightly reduced – it takes about 5 minutes.
  7. Once the muffins are out the oven, drizzle over a little of the orange syrup over each muffin (which will seep through the muffin infusing flavour). Leave for about 20 minutes to cool down before turning out and gorging.

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Macarons

M is for Macaroons

When I was younger, I used to live in Amiens, France – known as one of the best place in France for macaroons (or macarons in French). I’ve never yet made macarons, but have been very eager to try, so M on this blog was the perfect excuse.

The recipe I used was inspired from my favourite patissier, Eric Lanlard. I only made a couple of his varieties, but there are plenty more to be made (pistachio, chocolate, lavender etc.)

Macaron ingredients

 

Macarons - whisked egg whites

 

Macarons - whisking in the ground almonds

Preparation time: 30minutes

Cooking time: 15minutes

Ingredients:

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 3 egg whites (or 95g grams if using liquid egg white)
  • Food colourings (I used red and yellow)
  • Food flavourings (I used rose essence for the pink macarons and lemon essence for the yellow macarons)
  • Lemon curd
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 75ml double cream

Recipe:

  1. With an electric whisk, beat the egg whites into soft peaks then gradually add the caster sugar until there are stiffer peaks and the the whites have a sheen to them.
  2. Sift in the icing sugar and ground almonds into the beaten egg whites and fold together with a metal spoon.
  3. Divide the mixture between two bowls. In one add a teaspoon of lemon essence and several drops of yellow food colouring and fold together. In the other bowl add a couple of drops of red food colouring and a teaspoon of rose essence. Add a couple more drops of food colouring if you need to, but each drop goes a long way. Have a little taste and add a couple more drops of lemon/rose essence if required. The mixture should have a hint of flavour and not be too strong.
  4. Line 2 trays with baking parchment. The take a piping bag and fill with one of the mixtures, folding the top of the piping bag back over your hand to avoid getting the macaron mixture all over you.
  5. Snip of the end of the piping bag, and gently squeeze out the mixture into 3cm discs on the baking parchment. Repeat for the other colour mixture. You should have enough mixture to make 56-60 macaron discs in total.
  6. Leave to dry for 5 minutes whilst you pre-heat the oven to 150°C. Then put all the macarons in the oven for 12-15 minutes.
  7. Take out the over and carefully slide each sheet of baking parchment onto wire racks and leave to cool.

Macarons - piping

 

Macarons - pre-baking

 

Macarons fresh from the oven

Whilst the macarons are cooling, you can make the white chocolate ganache for the filling of the pink ones. Place a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Tip in squares of the white chocolate and pour over the double cream. Leave for a couple of minutes and then take off the heat. Mix together with several drops of red food colouring until the chocolate has melted. Place in the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes.

For the yellow macarons, sandwich a teaspoon of lemon curd between two of the meringues discs. For the red macarons, sandwich a teaspoon of the red coloured white chocolate ganache between the meringues discs.

Try not to eat them all at once!

Macarons