This is a special dish, suitable for a celebration or family gathering. And it is excellent for Christmas Day lunch or dinner. Although there are a number of elements, none is particularly tricky. Just make sure to allow enough time and the making of this should prove a pleasure (3-4 hours in total). Some elements can be made in advance, even the day before. The recipe is quite traditional but I have added a twist with the ‘Scandinavian’ pastry. This is easier to work with than rough puff, it cuts beautifully and the light cheese flavour from the quark really complements the fish. The coulibiac is also delicious served cold the day after. You can also use flakey pastry or brioche pastry as an alternative.
- 250g softened, unsalted butter
- 250g strong bread flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 250g quark cheese
- 1/8 tsp salt
Pancakes to line pastry
- 2 ½ oz plain flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4pt whole milk
- 1/4pt water
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tsp finely chopped parsley
- 2 tsp finely chopped dill
- About 1.5lbs/750-800g middle-cut salmon in one piece
- 125g/4oz butter
- ¼ cup sunflower oil
- Salt & pepper
- 270g button mushrooms
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- 180ml double cream
- *15 saffron strands
- 70g white rice
- 180g butter
- 4 shallots
- 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
- Small bunch of flat leaved parsley
- 125g/4ozs plain flour
- 63g/2 oz unsalted butter
- 200g fresh spinach – pre-washed
- Salt & black pepper
- Bouquet garni x 1
In a large bowl put soft butter and quark and mix well with a hand held mixer for 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together, and transfer to butter/quark mixture. Use a wooden spoon to combine together to form a dough. Transfer to lightly floured surface and give it 5-6 kneads until smooth. Cut in half and cover each with Clingfilm and refrigerate for 45 – 60 minutes to firm up.
Chop the mushrooms finely and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Heat butter in pan, add lemon juice, chopped shallots, and half the cream – 90ml – and cook over gentle heat until all liquid has evaporated. Season and allow to cool.
Prepare the rice
Cook the shallots in some butter over a gentle heat. Add the rice and 110 ml water, the saffron, the bouquet garni, and some seasoning and cook on stove top until all liquid is absorbed – about 12 – 15 minutes. Transfer to bowl and allow to cool.
Make the pancakes
Beat all ingredients together to make a thin batter. Use an oil spray to lightly oil pancake pan, and pour 1 small, ladleful of batter for each pancake. Make a batch of 8, cover and leave aside.
Boil eggs for 7 minutes, run under cold water, peal and roughly chop. Leave aside.
Destalk the spinach leaves, and steam for a few minutes until wilted. Drain and season and leave aside.
Assembly of the coulibiac
Firstly cook the salmon in a large frying pan for 4 minutes each side using the butter and oil. Transfer to large plate to allow to cool thoroughly. No matter if salmon is still undercooked in centre. It will finish cooking during the bake.
Roll out one half of the pastry to a rectangle – 40cm x 30cm x 1cm approx, and transfer to greased tray.
Line it with some of the pancakes leaving ½ inch round the edges.
Put ½ of the mushroom mixture along the centre of pancakes, and place the salmon fillet on top in the centre.
Put a layer of spinach on top of salmon, then the hard-boiled eggs, followed by the rice.
Cover the filling with pancakes and cut off any overlaps with scissors, as necessary. Cover with other pastry half and seal and crimp the edges. Leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Turn oven on to 180ᵒC while waiting.
Brush coulibiac with egg wash. Make an opening in the centre of the loaf to allow steam to escape. Either score the pastry with a small knife to give a pattern, or use cut-outs from the pastry trimmings. Bake the coulibiac for 35 – to 45 minutes. Allow to stand for 5 minutes on its tray and then transfer to serving tray carefully with 2 large palette knives or large fish slices and serve hot. It also tastes delicious the next day at room temperature.