This dish is quite easy to make using shop-bought puff pastry, although I have to admit that the fish shape is a bit fiddly to make. If you're put off by the idea of such cheffiness and frippery, make the pie in a simple rectangle.
The sauce of melted butter and capers is wickedly indulgent (I am enslaved by melted butter), but you can leave it out if you're watching calories: instead, make a cool sauce of equal parts good mayonnaise and thick Greek yoghurt, plus chopped capers and lemon zest and juice.
I used lightly smoked local trout (see my previous recipe for Potted Trout) but you can use a fresh fillet of salmon, or smoked salmon or trout. Or you could use your favourite smoked fish, such as lovely local smoked snoek, as I do in my favourite version of kedgeree.
Important note: I use still-raw lightly smoked trout that needs three to four minutes' poaching time. If you're using ordinary salmon, you will need to poach it for a little longer; that is, until it's just soft and beginning to flake, but still quite rare within. If you're using thin slices of smoked salmon or proper smoked trout, or smoked snoek, there's no need to poach the fish first.
Shop-bought puff pastry works very well, but do buy the best you can afford (I always use Woolworths pastry, because it's flop-proof, light and flaky, and doesn't taste like margarine, solidified whale fat, or any other such horrors).
Salmon, Rice, Egg & Dill Pie with Lemon-Caper Butter
¾ cup (190 ml) uncooked rice (plain Tastic, or basmati if you want a bit of perfume)
¾ cup (190 ml) cream
2 T (30 ml) soft butter
4 large free-range eggs (or five; see recipe)
350 g lightly smoked trout, or a fillet of fresh salmon
a thin slice of lemon, peel on
two rolls of good puff pastry, thawed
a handful (about a third of a cup; 80 ml) of chopped fresh dill
a handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp (5 ml) cayenne pepper, to taste
the zest and juice of a large lemon
salt and freshly milled black pepper
a beaten egg, for brushing
For the sauce:
¾ cup (190 ml) salted butter
a handful of capers, well drained
the juice of a lemon
sprigs of fresh dill
Put the rice in a pot and cover with cold water to a depth of two fingers (or follow the instructions on the packet). Add a pinch of salt and boil over a moderate heat until just tender. Drain the rice very well, return it to the pot and stir in the cream and butter. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Put the eggs in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring quickly to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for six or seven minutes, or until they are hard enough to peel easily, and the yolks are just set. (It's a good idea to cook an extra egg, so you can open it to check for doneness.) Remove the eggs from the heat, place the pan in the sink and douse in cold water. Let the tap trickle into the pot for a few minutes; this will prevent a dark ring from forming around the yolks. (Thank you Michael Olivier for this tip.)
Put the trout or salmon in a pan, cover with very hot water, add the lemon slice and poach for 3-4 minutes, or longer (see my notes above). Remove the fish with a slotted spoon and allow to cool slightly on a plate.
Heat the oven to 190ºC.
Now prepare the pastry. Place two large sheets of clingfilm, slightly overlapping, on your kitchen counter. Put one sheet of puff pastry on top. Lightly roll out the pastry. Using a sharp knife, cut out a large fish shape (see photograph below), but don't cut too close to the edges of the pastry sheet (this is the base of the pie, and is slightly smaller than the top sheet). Lay out another two sheets of clingfilm and on them roll out the second sheet of pastry. Now place the first, fish-shaped pastry (carefully pick it up by grasping the long edges of the clingfilm) on top of the second sheet. Cut out another fish shape, using the first as a guide, but make this second shape about 10 mm bigger on all sides. (If this doesn't make sense to you, send me an email!). Set both sheets aside.
Stir the dill, parsley, cayenne pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice into the cooled rice and season, if necessary, with more salt and black pepper. Take three-quarters of this mixture and spread it over the smaller sheet of pastry, leaving a gap of 10 mm all around the edges. Remove the skin, if any, from the fish, pull it into large flakes and arrange it on top of the rice. Peel the eggs, cut them into sixths and arrange them neatly in between the fish pieces. Sprinkle with a little extra lemon juice, salt and black pepper, plus more cayenne pepper, to taste. Now lightly pat the remaining quarter portion of rice on top, to fill any gaps between the egg and salmon pieces. Scatter with a little more finely chopped parsley and dill, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Using a pastry brush, brush beaten egg all the way round the edges of the pastry. Lift the bigger piece of pastry and place it carefully on top. You may need to stretch this top layer slightly. Seal the edges, either by pressing them together firmly, or by folding up the lower edge in small pleats. Make a decorative border by pressing the tines of a fork into the pastry's edges. Make a big eye and mouth for your pastry using the off-cuts of pastry, and use the rim of a small shot-glass to create a fish-scale effect. With the edge of a metal spatula, mark the tail of the fish. Poke a few small slits in the pastry, using the tip of a sharp knife, so steam can escape. Brush beaten egg all over the pie.
Using two metal spatulas (you may need an extra pair of hands here) gently slide the pie onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake at 190ºC for 20-30 minutes, or until the pie is puffed, golden brown and flaky.
In the meantime, make the sauce. Melt the butter and stir in the lemon juice and capers.
Serve piping hot, with lemon wedges and sprigs of fresh dill, and pass the lemon-caper butter around in a small jug.
Serves 8. Print Friendly