Day 5 – Russian Fish Pie
Two years after Dad passed, Mum is throwing things out that she no longer has a use for. Some items went earlier than others. The larger SUV was traded in for a more manageable hatchback within a couple of months. The lounge suite also went early on. But it was the smaller items, the detritus of years of use that lay unwanted or unused in the garage that took the longest to go through. In the end a neat pile was set aside for grandchildren, which is how my children scored a George Foreman grill, an electric wok and a pie maker.
The items were stowed away in the kitchen cupboard, next to the large square electric frypan gifted to them by their paternal grandmother (clearly it’s a stage one goes through). And then, a few weeks later, the darndest thing happened – my children actually asked me how to use the pie maker. Or rather, they asked for suggestions for pie fillings. Which is how this handy number made it into their mouths.
Called Koulibiac in other parts of the world, this was once popular at a time when exotic or exciting food in British cookery was still limited to The Continent and comprehensive school cookery students had no electric wok to use. A George Foreman grill would have sent teachers into an apoplexy. It was made squarish and large and quite possibly with smoked haddock rather than salmon, but salmon is the original recipe from Mother Russia, so salmon it is.
The really great thing is that this can be made with either a salmon cutlet or tinned salmon according to your budget. Tinned salmon is especially excellent if you’ve only got a couple of people to feed as you can buy a smaller tin to suit. The original recipe has rice and mushrooms added to the mix but that’s just too fancy for hungry teenagers. As it is, this is fast and fuss-free (even without the pie-maker) and, if the response from my teens was any indication, likely to encourage them to go try something more.
Makes 4 individual pies or one larger pie.
1 cup milk; 1 bayleaf; 3 spring onions; 2 eggs; 1 tbsp plain flour; 30g butter; 1 cup water; 2 tbsp parsley; pinch nutmeg or mace; 1 large salmon cutlet which has been pan-fried for three minutes on both sides OR 1 x 380g tin; sea salt & black pepper to taste; 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed and still cool to the touch; 1 cup cooked rice (optional); 1 egg, extra, lightly beaten
Place milk, bayleaf, the white parts of the spring onions (leave the green part for later) and a few peppercorns (if you have them) in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the milk comes to the boil. Remove from heat and let the milk steep for 30 minutes. Discard the solids and set the cooled milk aside in a jug. Clean the saucepan ready to make the béchamel sauce.
Fill a small saucepan with cold water and bring to the boil. Hard boil two eggs for 8 minutes, then cool under running water and peel. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 190°C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add flour and butter. Use a balloon whisk to stir the flour well until it thickens a little and cooks for at least three minutes. Add the remaining chopped spring onions, steeped milk and water all at once and whisk well to remove lumps. Keep stirring with the whisk as the sauce comes to the boil and thickens. Add finely chopped parsley and then season to taste with nutmeg, sea salt and black pepper.
If you are using a salmon cutlet: Use two forks to carefully flake the fish and remove the bones. Set aside.
If you are using tinned salmon: Drain and remove skin and bones, then flake gently with a fork and set side.
Mix together the sauce, salmon and roughly chopped eggs
To assemble: If making a large pie, lay one sheet of pastry on the baking tray and brush the edges with beaten egg. Line with a layer of rice if you are using it, then pile the salmon mixture into the middle and smooth the top. Place the other pastry sheet over the top and press down the edges firmly. Brush with beaten egg and make a couple of slits in the middle of the pie.
If making smaller pies in a pie maker: Cut the pastry sheets into quarters and line the pie cups with one quarter. Spoon a quarter of the rice and smooth it down over the base, then add a quarter of the salmon mixture over the top. Brush the edges of the pie with beaten egg then top with another quarter of pastry and press down well to seal the edges. Trim the pastry to fit. Brush the tops with egg. Turn the pie maker on, close the lid and cook for 12 minutes.
$10.70 for four people