Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pink Julep in the Kitchen: Koulibiac

Last night I set out to make Koulibiac, a Russian fish pie. It seemed like it was going to be an ambitious feat, but actually it was quite easy, though a little time consuming. Though in presentation, my first try didn't turn out quite perfectly, this dish is quite pretty, especially for a dinner party! It's just as tasty as it is pretty.

Normally, I edit recipes, mostly due to the fact that I'm an incredibly picky eater. When I'm not making up my own recipes, which I do from time to time, I use a recipe from a cookbook and alter it to suit my tastes or in ways that I think would make it more interesting. This recipe is adapted from Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook, which is fantastic - I highly recommend it! Since I altered this recipe quite a bit, I thought I'd share it.


  • 1 cup uncooked rice (I used Uncle Ben's)
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter plus extra for greasing and serving
  • 3 large garlic cloves minced
  • 6 tablespoons tomato paste or puree 
  • 3 small boneless, skinless salmon fillets 
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lemon 
  • Lemon juice for salmon flaking & serving the dish (I used bottled lemon juice for these steps)
  • 1 lb of puff pastry (I used a 350g sheet of Jus-Rol that I bought ready made)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 cup frozen or canned sweet corn
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of dried dill tops
  • 1 tablespoon crushed chili flakes

Step 1: Cook & Flake Salmon

I decided to cook the salmon en papilliote since it's quick, easy and makes little mess. This is also a good way to guarantee moist, soft salmon that's not too dry.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius or 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Place the salmon fillets on 3 large separate pieces of tin foil.
  • Sprinkle the fillets with crushed chili flakes, dill tops and salt & pepper
  • Fold the foil in half over the fish and secure on two sides by folding in towards the fish leaving the top open like an envelope.
  • Pour a generous amount of lemon juice into the envelope and seal the top over 2 or 3 times so the fillets are each in their own sealed foil pouches (pictured below).

  • Place the pouches on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Open the salmon pouches being careful not to burn yourself with the steam and empty the fish and juices of each pouch into a mixing bowl. (pictured below)

  • Using a fork, flake the salmon - it should just fall apart very easily. Set it aside. (pictured below)

Step 2: Prepare the Filling

  • Cook the rice for about 10 minutes in salted boiling water and strain. Set aside to cool.
  • In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Add the garlic stirring constantly and cook for a few minutes, but not until brown. 
  • Add the sweet corn and tomato paste while constantly stirring. Cook for about 5 minutes or until hot. Set aside to cool.
  • Once everything has cooled down, mix together the salmon, tomato & corn mixture, rice, parmesan cheese, lemon zest, fresh lemon juice, cayenne pepper, parsley and salt & pepper to taste in a large mixing bowl. (pictured above)

 Step 3: Putting it All Together

  • Lightly grease a baking sheet with butter - set aside.
  • Unroll the pasty on a flat surface. If it doesn't look big enough for your mixture, roll it out with a rolling pin to make it bigger.
  • Spoon the filling into the center of the pastry dough in a rectangular shape. Trim the ends of the pastry dough until it's the right size to fold over the mixture and fully cover it.
  • Fold the shortest ends of the pastry over the mixture first and then the longer ends, securing them with a bit of the beaten egg like a paste. When you've completed this, carefully flip the whole pie over onto the baking sheet. (pictured below)

  • Using a small, sharp knife, decorate the sides of the pie by cutting designs, leaving space down the middle for the braid.
  • Use the leftover pastry scraps to cut 3 long strips. Pinch the ends together on one side and braid the pastry, fastening at the other end with another pinch. Place the braid down the center of the pie. (pictured below)

  •  Lightly brush the entire top of the pie with beaten egg (this helps the pastry to brown). Bake at 220 degrees Celsius or 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 45 minutes or until golden brown.

  • Place on a heated serving dish to serve (pictured above). Feel free to garnish with watercress, lemon wedges or whatever suits you - get creative! 

  •  Just before serving, melt 1 tablespoon of butter with about 1/4 cup of lemon juice (bottled is fine)  - heat until hot and pour into the cracks of the pastry.

  • Serve in thick slices and enjoy!
After making Koulibiac, I've come to really love puff pastry and now my head is swimming with all the things I could do with it - I'll be experimenting with it more in the coming months, so look out for more recipes!

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