About this recipe:A traditional fish dish from Russia, this is made with poached salmon, rice and mushrooms. The updated version here uses crisp filo rather than the usual puff pastry. As all the preparation can be done ahead of time, a koulibiac is an ideal dinner party dish. All it needs with it are some colourful steamed vegetables.
400 g (14 oz) piece of salmon fillet
3 tbsp dry white wine
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
30 g (1 oz) butter
2 onions, finely chopped
200 g (7 oz) button mushrooms, thinly sliced
200 g (7 oz) basmati rice
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
7 sheets filo pastry, about 200 g (7 oz) in total
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
lemon wedges to serve
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Method Prep:2hr20min › Cook:40min › Ready in:3hr
Put the salmon in a non-aluminium pan with the wine, bay leaf and peppercorns. Pour in enough cold water just to cover the fish. Set the pan over a moderate heat and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat so the liquid just simmers, then cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the fish cool in the poaching liquid.
Meanwhile, melt 15 g (½ oz) of the butter in a large frying pan. Add the onions and stir well, then cover and cook over a low heat for 8–10 minutes or until very soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn up the heat and cook uncovered, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms have softened. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.
Rinse the rice and cook in a saucepan of boiling water for 10–12 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until just tender. Drain the rice and turn it out onto a large plate or tray to cool.
Drain the cooled salmon and flake the flesh, discarding the skin and any bones. Gently combine the rice with the mushroom mixture. Add the chopped dill and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Melt the remaining 15 g (½ oz) butter in a small saucepan with the oil. Arrange 3 overlapping sheets of pastry on a lightly oiled baking sheet to make a 40 cm (16 in) square, brushing each sheet sparingly with the butter and oil mixture. Arrange 3 more sheets on top, brushing with the butter and oil.
Spoon half the rice mixture down the centre of the pastry to make a neat shape about 30 x 17 cm (12 x 6 1/2 in). Top with the flaked salmon. Spoon the rest of the rice on top of the fish and moun 1/2 into a neat shape. Lightly brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg, then wrap the pastry over the filling to enclose it completely. Brush the last sheet of pastry with the remaining butter mixture, then cut into quarters. Lightly crumple each piece and secure on top of the koulibiac with a little beaten egg, to make a neat decoration. Cover and chill for up to 4 hours until ready to cook.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6). Lightly brush the koulibiac with beaten egg to glaze, then bake for 35–40 minutes or until golden brown and the centre is piping hot (check with a skewer). Transfer the koulibiac to a serving platter and add lemon wedges. Cut into slices to serve.
For a smoked haddock koulibiac, replace the salmon with 400 g (14 oz) smoked haddock fillet. Poach as in the main recipe, but replace the water with semi-skimmed milk. In step 2, instead of mushrooms add 125 g (4½ oz) frozen petits pois to the softened onions and cook for 1 minute. Use chopped parsley instead of dill, and add a chopped hard-boiled egg to the rice and petits pois mixture in step 4.
Black peppercorns are the dried fruit of a tropical vine native to India. They are picked when green and allowed to ferment in the sun before drying. Herbal practitioners believe that black pepper can have a stimulatory effect on the digestive system. * Filo pastry is a lower-fat alternative to shortcrust and puff pastries. In 100 g (3½ oz) filo there are 2 g fat and 275 kcal; the same weight of shortcrust pastry contains 29 g fat and 449 kcal.