Salmon Coulibiac with quark butter pastry


It's the dreaded time after Christmas. In Finland we call the bleak weeks after Epiphany the Oxweeks, presumably because we go back to working like oxen instead of forever lying on our backs eating nuts and watching Love Actually.

Salmon Coulibiac with rice, egg and dill

Salmon Coulibiac with quark butter pastry

Salmon Coulibiac with quark butter pastry and layers of salmon, rice, egg and dill
You can get all pretentious with your layers, but I think this looks pretty good. And bottom is not soggy in case the dirty old Hollywood would like to give it a little pat. 
I hate working like an ox OBVIOUSLY and not eating nuts and all kinds of goodies all the time. And not having at least one nap a day. Sometimes two, one in the AM if I accidentally got up too early (excited that it was Christmas) and one in the afternoon. But at least one in the afternoon. It's a basic human right.

The other nigh I had a box of ham and pickle flavoured luxury Yorkshire crisps for dinner. They were left over from a Christmas hamper I won in the charity raffle at work. And it was all going so well, healthy lunch at work and only one Thornton's chocolate. So much for the couscous and rocket salad that was the original dinner plan. I wonder what else is left in the hamper.

And there is the added emotional turmoil because the jolly inflatable polar bear has been shoved back into its box and Christmas lights have come down. The last hyacinth is slowly dying on the mantelpiece, there's very little food and a funny whiff in the fridge and husband has found and emptied all the chocolate hidey-holes.

We had a wonderful Christmas time though, must count blessings and not moan like some miserable ungrateful misery gut. Lots of lovely foods, some traditional Christmas stuff but mainly really just things that we love. We had lots of long nature walks inspired by husband's new iWatch and activity tracker. While walking we had deep conversations about love, life and such like. I would ask husband if he could even believe how much he actually loved me and if he loved me more every day, and so on. On one of our walks we saw a big flock of Egyptian geese on a field. My eyesight is not great, I first thought they were deer. Husband asked, what they were, why they were there and how people were supposed to play football with all of them crowding the place. I told him they were Egyptian geese, and that they'd just flown in to eat some worms or something, or maybe just grass and roots and stuff, if they were vegetarian, and then they would fly back out. "What? Back to Egypt?" marvelled husband the ornithologist.

I also read 7 or 8 psychological thrillers mostly about controlling and violent husbands which really put husband's occasional morning grumpiness into perspective. And the fact he doesn't even ask when he switches the channel to football when I have paused the Titanic documentary when all the energetic Irish dock workers are hammering in the rivets to go get him some of my freshly made seafood and goat cheese filo tart. And!! That he secretly chucks my plastic containers in the bin! Because apparently they are discoloured or there are too many and they keep falling off the shelves, or whatever. But I don't think there is any excuse, these plastic containers are really important for leftover food storage and to pack our lunches. Sometimes I notice because I know my containers and know if one of them goes missing, sometimes I notice because I see one in the bin and I don't even rummage particularly. Sometimes I get a funny feeling and I do rummage. And who would blame me! I think this is very sneaky behavior on husband's part.

So anyhow, I told him I felt very lucky to have such a patient and mild mannered husband who never locked me out of the house in winter in my flipflops, scratched "bitch" in my back with a cut-up credit card or ran me over with a speedboat mowing half of my head off.

But mostly I loved my Christmas break for the time I could spend in my kitchen with Christmas songs playing and a glass of red wine at hand while I cooked for us.

On the Eve of Christmas Eve which is almost an official Holiday for Finns I did the Zander Walewska, a kind of a melodramatic fish pie, which is becoming a bit of a Christmas tradition in our house. I poached the Finnish lake fish in prosecco and fish stock, prepared a creamy bechamel with Finnish forest chanterelles and piped the buttery mash into pretty duchesse potatoes.

Lohi Walewska - Zander Walewska, majestic fishpie with zander, chanterelle bechamel and duchess potatoes

Christmas Eve which definitely is a big day for us Finns I did Kashmiri style lamb shanks with cranberries and pistachios and saffron and dill rice. Apparently a traditional Christmas dish in Pakistan. I served it with a gorgeous green salad as well as traditional Finnish mushroom salad. I thought lamb and wild mushrooms is always a good combo. But not like this, I realized having my first mouthful of the warmly cinnamon and cardamon spiced lamb and the sharp and vinegary mushrooms. Both lovely individually, but together wrong. Like Marilyn Manson dating Kylie, which he isn't thank Goodness.

Traditional Finnish mushroom salad

Kashmiri style lamb shanks with pistachios and cranberries

Christmas Day brunch tradition for us is blinis and roe, which I had brought from Finland. And this time I also had some Karelian pasties (the ones that apparently look a bit rude) with egg butter (just hard boiled eggs mixed with butter).

Salmon row with onion, dill and sour cream

Christmas dinner was oven-roasted wild seabass filled with herbs and lemon. I also of course made the Finnish sweetened potato bake, which I can't do without. With some pickled herring and marinated anchovies it was a wonderful example of how sometimes it works when opposites attract. Like Wladimir Klitschko and Hayden Panettiere or Roger and Jessica Rabbit.

Traditional Finnish Christmas Sweetened potato bake
Sweetened potato bake - takes about 5000 hours to do, but worth it. 

Traditional Finnish Christmas Sweetened potato bake with pickled herring and anchovies
Anchovies, sweetened potato bake and pickled herring. There is no better starter to a Christmas meal. 

Oven baked wild seabass wtih asparagus
Husband loves a whole oven baked fish - you should see him eat the head, you'd never need to watch a horror film again.

Boxing Day dinner was a very delicious seafood pasta which took me about 15 min to throw together and got husband more excited that any of my much more complex culinary stunts.

Smoked reindeer and reindeer salami pizza
Qu'est-ce que c'est? A sneaky pizza? Might have been the New Year's day's reward for our heroic NYE partying - reindeer salami and smoked reindeer and other supremely salty things on thin crust. 
One camp Christmas classic I didn't have time to do until the weekend after Christmas was salmon coulibiac. My mum used to often make this snazzy fish pie for the evening of Christmas day. We'd had our big lunch early afternoon, so this was the perfect light supper. I made this with the left over dill and saffron rice and home-made quark pastry. It is quite an impressive looking dish and very tasty. And there was plenty of it to be had even with some miraculously ending up on the floor. This is the recipe I will share here and now.

Salmon Coulibiac in quark butter pastry

250g butter
1.5 cups flour
250g quark

Cut the butter into cubes and mix with the flour pinching the butter and flour together until small crumbs form. Add in the quark and a pinch of salt. Mix all well and combine to a ball. Flatten, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for and hour or two.

Rice - either use left overs like I did, or boil 3/4 cup of pudding rice with some salt
Whitepepper or blackpepper
600 - 700g salmon, either normal or raw lightly smoked salmon
4 hard boiled eggs
A bunch of dill

Preheat oven to 200C.

Chop the dill.

Boil the rice according to pack instructions. Drain and season with salt and white or black pepper. Stir in half of the chopped dill.

Slice the salmon into 1 cm slices. Peel and chop the hard boiled (8-10 min) eggs.

Take the pastry from fridge and cut into two. Roll the first half into a rectangle. If you want to get it a bit more fluffy and flaky do the fold and roll again thing. After rolling it to a rectangle, fold it in two and roll out again. Repeat 3 times.

Once happy with your rectangle place it on a baking sheek. spread half of the rice in the middle of the sheet leaving enough space in sides to seal the top. Now layer on the fish, season the fish with salt and black pepper, cover with the copped egg, sprinkle on the extra dill and cover with the rest of the rice. Shape with your hands so that you have a nice firm rectangle of filling.

Brush the sides of the bottom edges of the pastry with egg wash. Roll out your other half of pastry as you did the first making it a little bit bigger than the bottom half. Spread the pastry over the fish pie. Cut the extra off from all of the sides. Either close the sides by pinching the pastry together with a fork or crimp / fold the sides. Use the cut off extra bits to decorate the top.

At this stage you can either freeze or refrigerate the pie to bake later, or go ahead and bake immediately.

Once ready to bake, brush the whole beauty with egg wash, pierce a few times with a fork and bake for 30 minutes.

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