Call me brave or possibly foolish but I’ve just invited chef Tom Aikens and his lovely wife to my home for supper and am now thinking: what do you cook for someone with a Michelin star when your career is based on mushing up peas…?
Should I cook the lovely Tom my version of chicken dippers or my macaroni cheese with hidden cauliflower? I ask my best friend Peggy and she wrests my new bookazine (halfway between a book and a magazine) from my hands and gesticulates to my salmon en croute.
She’s right, it’s the kind of dish that looks impressive, tastes delicious and you don’t need three Michelin stars to prepare it. And what’s more I can make it in the morning and not have any last minute panic attacks. I won’t mention that it comes from my latest kids’ cookbook designed for five-year-olds…
SERVES 8 TO 10
● 2 sides of fresh salmon, each side weighing 800g, probably from a 4 lb salmon, skinned
● 250g baby spinach, washed
● 250g ricotta cheese
● 1 x 450g packet puff pastry
● A knob of butter
● 1 onion, finely chopped
● 50g Parmesan cheese, grated
● 1 egg yolk
● Juice of half a lemon
● 1 egg, beaten
● Salt and freshly ground pepper
● Preheat the oven to 200F / 400 F Gas Mark 6 and preheat a large baking sheet in the oven until hot.
● Melt the knob of butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion, cover with a lid and slowly sweat for 10 minutes until soft.
● Remove the lid and add the spinach, stirring until wilted. l Remove from the heat and leave to become cold.
● Add the ricotta, parmesan, egg yolk, lemon juice and lots of seasoning. Lay the fillets on a chopping board.
● Season well, then spread the filling over the bottom fillet. Put the other fillet on top so the salmon looks like a whole fish.
● Cut a small strip of pastry and leave to one side. Roll out the remaining pastry into a large rectangle that is longer and wider than the fish.
● Put the fish on one side of the pastry leaving a 7.5cm (3in) edge all around.
● Fold the pastry over the fish and seal the edges to make a large parcel and brush the pastry with the beaten egg.
● Lift up using two fish slices and put onto baking paper.
● Transfer to the preheated baking tray (you should be able to pick it up with the paper using fish slices either end) and brush the pastry with the beaten egg.
● I always try to cook pastry on a preheated baking sheet to help it brown and to avoid the base becoming soggy.
● Roll out the small strip of pastry, cut into shapes — you could use mini cookie cutters — place on top and brush over with a little more beaten egg.
● Cook in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the pastry is golden brown and crisp, checking after 25 minutes.
● Enjoy the party!