Friday, 16 March 2012

Salmon en Croute

All my family know what a hypochondriac I am.

I have been lying in bed all week with a nasty cold, resisting the impulse to list my symptoms on an online medical diagnosis website to discover whether my three day cough is really a sign of something far worse lurking in the darkest recesses of my body (satisfyingly, for the true malingerer, any symptoms you type into '' et al WILL eventually lead to ca...).

Last month, my angina fears turned out to be a bruise from resting my laptop on my chest while typing on my bed, and a couple of months ago, a deep vein thrombosis emergency was, in actual fact, a dead leg I had inexplicably and drunkenly contracted while out on the town with my friend Christian.

I blame my mum (don't we all, for most everything?) for keeping a slightly too-close running check on my health status. Even when I'm feeling great, she takes one look at my face and says: 'I don't like your colour.' It's not that she's racist, it's just her way of telling me that my cheeks are not aglow with vitality. Her cure? Food, of course.

Bad leg? An apple. Type 2 diabetes? Roast Chicken. Stomach ulcer? Casserole. But as a catch-all cure, the 'aspirin' of all food is fish. As far as my mum, and most of the rest of the western world also seem to think, fish is the key to lasting health and happiness. 'Look at Japanese people, they eat sushi every day and they all live to be 100.' Yes mum, I'm sure they do.

So, to have a stab at getting rid of my annoying ailments before the weekend partying starts, I shall attempt the tried-and-tested, works-every-time, mother-endorsed, cure-all fish treatment. And the dish I have chosen is salmon en croute.

There is no better way to eat fish than smothering it in buttery Hollandaise sauce and encasing it in buttery puff pastry. I have tried putting spinach in my croutes. Rubbish! I have tried putting carrots in my croutes. Terrible! I have tried putting rocket and watercress in my croutes. Useless! Unless its main ingredient is butter, I do not want it coming near this dish.

Serve rocket, watercress, spinach or carrots alongside your salmon en croute, with my blessing, but resist the temptation to put them anywhere inside the pastry.

I'm sure anyone hoping to live to 100 on a fish-only diet, will understand that eating this butter-laden dish every day will more likely bring about an early death, rather than prolong life. But when I'm feeling a bit under the weather, this dish never fails to bring a smile to my face. It's simple and delicious, and likely to be the most caloriffic fish dish in the world - and I couldn't care less.

As ever, I advocate the use of ready-rolled puff pastry sheets (which are £1.75 per two servings). My local supermarket has salmon fillets on offer at £6.49 per kilo, so this dish comes in at £2 per serving. Enough left over from your Potless budget to buy some of those pesky vegetables - on the side, of course.

Serves 4


1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 egg yolks
125g melted butter
Pinches of salt and pepper
2 x 375g ready-rolled puff pastry sheets, cut into halves, to make four pieces
600g skinless salmon fillet, cut into four pieces
1-2 egg yolks beaten

To make the Hollandaise sauce: Microwave the lemon juice and vinegar together until hot. While whisking the yolks in a bowl with one hand, carefully pour the liquids into the bowl, bit-by-bit, to avoid curdling. Once the liquid has been absorbed into the yolks, add the butter, also bit-by-bit, until fully amalgamated. Season to taste.

Take a puff pastry sheet and place a salmon fillet in the centre. Spoon a generous amount of Hollandaise sauce over the salmon and quickly close the pastry. Form a tight seal with a little water and crimp the edges with your fingers. Brush with the beaten egg yolk and repeat with the other three croutes. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry has risen and is golden and crunchy.

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