Last weekend we celebrated the birthday of a special Turkish cousin here at home so I wanted a special menu.
Actually I knew what the main course was going to be as I have been looking for an opportunity to make this ever since I saw the recipe. I love that squiggly litttle bit of yufka down the back which certainly adds to the wow factor!
|salmon parcel waiting to go in the pre-heated oven|
We eat a lot of salmon in this house and I expect you do too. What we did before it became available in Turkey, I don’t know! The sort that we get here is classed as Norwegian but I have just learnt something really interesting: it is actually Atlantic salmon which is farm-raised in Norway. And to think I thought all along it was caught in those icy fiords! Apparently there are two types of salmon: Atlantic and Pacific, according to the ocean in which they are found. Another interesting piece of information: farmed salmon accounts for about 80% of all salmon worldwide so it’s getting harder and harder to find the wild-caught version in its native habitat.
I get mine from Migros which has a great fish counter and the fishmongers always do a good job of preparing whatever fish I buy. Other places may be cheaper but invariably you will find a few little bones and scales that have been overlooked. These tend to mar one’s eating pleasure or at least they do mine!
This recipe is an adaptation of the traditional salmon en croûte made with puff pastry and from which I have kept well away all these years due to too many calories, and was developed by Angela Nilson in the November BBC Good Food magazine, my favourite mag.
It’s ideal: a great entertaining dish that not only looks wonderful, can be made in advance, but is much healthier than the original version. Yufka or filo has virtually no fat and salmon is such a healthy fish with its high levels of Omega 3, protein and Vitamin D. No butter at all is used in the preparation and the yufka is glazed with olive or sunflower oil as opposed to egg or melted butter.The spinach filling is another nutritious boost. Spinach is the classic filling and in fact the recipe uses watercress just for a change but I don’t know what that is in Turkish as I don’t know what it’s like in English!
But my first challenge was when I went to Migros to buy my salmon fillets. Ideally what I wanted was one whole fish. The fishmonger there got very excited and went off to bring one from the back. But when he emerged triumphant the fish was immense and I burst out laughing: this is for 24 people I said! Way too big. So I had to settle for 2 matching pieces of fillet. Of course it worked but not as pretty as a whole fish would have been. BTW I doubled all the ingredients below.
Ingredients for Baked Salmon Wrapped in Yufka
3 tbsp olive oil
2 large shallots/arpacık soğan, finely chopped (I used a regular onion)
140g/5oz chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Juice ½ lemon
100g/3 ½ oz packet watercress, chopped (OR spinach)
2 tbsp snipped dill/dereotu
1 tbsp snipped chives/yaprak soğan (I used taze soğan/ spring onions)
2 ½ tbsp half-fat crème fraîche (not available here so I did use a little cream from a packet)
6 sheets filo pastry, each about 38 x 30cm (125g total weight) .I used 2 sheets Turkish yufka which are 60cm/2ft in diameter and not as thin as filo. This was fine for the larger salmon fillets I bought
2 x 350g/12oz skinned salmon fillets/somon fileto, derisiz
a sprinkling of nigella seeds (my suggestion)
· Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Tip in the shallots and fry for 2-3 mins to soften, then add the mushrooms and garlic, and stir-fry over a high heat for another 3-4 mins, or until the mushrooms and shallots are golden and any liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Pour in the lemon juice – after a few seconds, that should have evaporated too. Remove from the heat, then stir in the watercress or spinach so it wilts in the warmth of the pan. Stir in the dill and chives, and season with a little salt and pepper. Leave to cool.
|preparing the stuffing mixture|
· Heat oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
· Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. When the mushroom mix is cool, stir in the crème fraîche. Lay one of the filo sheets on the worktop with the short end facing you.Brush all over with a little of the remaining oil. Layer up 4 more of the filo sheets in the same way, brushing each with a little of the oil. If you are using yufka, see below under Tips.
|spreading the cooled mixture over the salmon fillet|
· Lay one of the salmon fillets, skin-side up, across the width of the filo, positioning it about one-third of the way up. Season it with pepper. Spoon and spread the cooled mushroom mix over the top of the fillet. Lay the other salmon fillet on top, skin-side down. Season again. Fold the short end of pastry nearest to you over the salmon, then bring the other end over to completely enclose the salmon, lifting it so the join can tuck under it. Fold both pastry ends over as neatly as you can.
|sprinkled with nigella/çörekotu|
· Brush the outside with a bit more of the remaining oil. Scrunch up the last sheet of filo, pressing it lightly on top in big folds, then carefully brush with the last of the oil. Use more if necessary. Can be prepared 3-4 hrs ahead up to this point and chilled.
· Transfer the salmon parcel to the baking sheet. Bake for 25 mins until the pastry is crisp and golden. Check while it cooks and if the top starts to brown too quickly, lay a sheet of foil very loosely over it.
· Remove from the oven and let the salmon sit for 2-3 mins before slicing.
|just out of the oven|
1. I left folding up the salmon parcel till as late as possible as I was nervous about the yufka getting soggy. I covered the layered and filled salmon fillets in cling-film and put them in a dish with a shallow rim in case any liquid oozed out. Sure enough, it did so I highly recommend doing that.
2. To wrap it up using Turkish yufka which is such a different shape to filo, I took one sheet and folded it in half away from me. Then I placed the salmon fillets in the middle at right angles to myself. After that, I took first one side and wrapped it over and tucked it under, then the other. Basically, make it neat. Then I took the second sheet. After tearing off a long strip for the final touch of the squiggly bit on top, I folded the remaining part over and under. It doesn’t really matter how you do it but the final effect depends on the packet being neatly wrapped all round. I also used sunflower oil. Don’t forget to brush each part with it before going on to the next sheet.
3. My final touch was a sprinkling of nigella or çörekotu. Here in Turkey these or sesame seeds are often used with börek so I’m used to that.
4. Because my salmon fillets made a much larger and thicker parcel than the original recipe’s, I cooked it longer. Turks don’t like things undercooked so I knew that even a little bit of pink salmon would be the kiss of death. The guidelines of watching the colour of the yufka held good and I didn’t need to use any foil.
I served the baked salmon with a large green salad.
The full menu was:
Potage Crécy (carrot soup) with croûtons
Baked Salmon in Yufka
Delia’s Fallen Chocolate Soufflé with Prunes