The genius Nigel Slater refers to his recipe for a Salmon and Cucumber Pie as being “…A light, unfussy fish pie for a summer’s day”.
I’ve slightly adapted the original recipe from his book ‘EAT – The little book of fast food’ – a cookbook that I highly recommend for its abundance of simple, inspired dishes made with glorious (and sometimes unusual) combinations of ingredients.
In this instance and because the month of May in the Colorado Rockies only resembles summer in occasional spurts, I’ve replaced the original recipe’s call for seeded and chopped English hothouse cucumber with his suggestion of thinly sliced leek that’s sweated in a little butter; and because I’m not overly fond of shrimp unless it’s wild-caught or of the freshwater variety, I’ve traded those in for scallops but feel free to mix it up.
I also replaced the heavy cream with crème fraîche because I absolutely love it and use it wherever I can but either will work really well.
The one thing that irks me about living where I live is the limited selection of fresh seafood. Even the offerings at Whole Foods don’t come close to the wide varieties of fish and shellfish found in markets and fishmongers throughout the UK – and as an aside, wild British salmon is also infinitely superior to the wild salmon available in the US.
Maybe I should move to Seattle.
No matter; as long as it’s wild-caught and not farmed, I’ll buy what I need from the freezer section. Frozen seafood works perfectly well in a fish pie but where-oh-where is the scallop coral? I don’t think I’ve seen one scallop coral in the US which is a great pity as they’re absolutely delicious and beautiful to look at. I realize scallop coral is highly perishable but if you’re eating scallops at the end of the pier from where they were caught that day, wouldn’t the coral be totally fresh? It could also be frozen along with the familiar knob of white scallop meat it was attached to – but it isn’t.
Anyway here it is, sans scallop coral; a simple salmon, scallop and cod pie with a dill, lemon zest and breadcrumb topping…easy to make, fragrant, light, yet rich-tasting – in fact perfect for spring or summer!
SALMON, SCALLOP & COD PIE with a LEMON-DILL CRUMB TOPPING
3 oz (85g) of fresh white breadcrumbs
The finely grated zest of one lemon
A handful of fresh dill fronds, stalks discarded
11 oz (300g) of preferably wild-caught salmon
7 oz (200g) of cod fillet
9 oz (250g) of scallops or defrosted peeled raw prawns, or a combination of both
1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only
One teaspoon of capers, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 – 2 oz (50-60g) butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 fl oz (150ml) of crème fraîche or heavy (double) cream
Pre-heat the oven to 360F (180C)
Butter a shallow baking dish.
In a food processor, start by pulsing the breadcrumbs briefly with the lemon zest and dill fronds until everything is chopped up and blended. Set aside.
Remove any skin from the salmon and cod and cut the fish into chunks approx the same size as the scallops. (Don’t waste the salmon skin – make salmon skin crackling with it.)
Put the fish and scallops in a large bowl and set aside.
First clean the leek then slice it very thinly. Melt half of the butter in a sauté pan with a lid and ‘sweat’ the leek slices over a low heat with the lid on for about 10 minutes or until they’re soft and tender.
Once the leeks are tender, tip the crème fraîche (or cream) into the same pan and allow it to gently liquefy. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir to combine then tip the lot over the fish in the bowl. Gently fold everything together along with the capers and transfer to the buttered baking dish.
Using half of the remaining butter, tuck little bits of it among the pieces of fish.
Scatter the dill and lemon crumb topping over the fish and dot with the last of the butter (It’s OK to use more if you need it).
Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-35 minutes or until the topping has turned golden in places and the fish is cooked through.
Note: Nigel suggests serving this with fresh green peas but I’ll have to wait for the one week in the middle of summer to even get a glimpse of a pea pod, so until then it’s the frozen variety for me.
It would also be wonderful served with fresh mange-tout/snow-peas as they seem to have a longer season than the proper, full-grown peas in the pod.
If you prefer the idea of a salmon and cucumber pie (more summery), omit the leek part and proceed as follows:
Peel, de-seed and chop a medium sized (English) cucumber into chunks and fold into the fish along with the cream, capers and a grind of sea salt and black pepper – finish assembling and cooking the pie as above.