This recipe is not your standard Wellington. I did a little research on Wellingtons but it seems no one is quite sure where the name comes from. Of course, given the Britishness of Beef Wellington, lots of sources attribute the name to Arthur Wellesly, the 1st Duke of Wellington, but wikipedia suggests that the wonderful (and ornery) Clarrisa Dickson-Wright says it has nothing to do with him!
Here in Norway it is hard to find pre-made puff pastry, and what i have found comes in small little sheets only suitable for little apple turnovers (Chaussons aux pommes). But when living in Scotland, you can get big blocks and large sheets of it too. And it was while playing with these that i came up with this recipe. I eat a lot of salmon, and fortunately both Scottish and Norwegian farmed salmon is of very high quality.
In the Norwegian case this is interesting as Norwegian companies own the majority of world production of farmed salmon, and in places like British Columbia (my original home) and Chile, the companies are not always viewed positively. There are issues about the location of salmon farms, poor security and high levels of antibiotics, etc. In BC, in fact, there have been serious protests and government scientists getting into trouble for saying this type of salmon farming is bad for the marine environment. Checkout this rather extreme but no doubt rather truthful film.
Fortunately, here in Norway, the standards are considerably higher and ironically, Norwegian farmed fish are of the highest quality, both in their production standards, and in the fish i get from my local Coop. (Btw, they also produce great farmed halibut). The fish i get taste clean, and the dorsal fins are strong and upright. So i am comfortable eating them.
At any rate, i was messing around with puff pastry and came up with this recipe in a moment of inspiration. I am a great fan of the combination of savoury with sweet, and that is what this recipe is all about. The key ingredient is pears! I always have some tinned pears in the larder and i just happened to grab them when playing with making a salmon wellington and the result was superb! I serve this a lot now, either as a dramatic whole 'main' or as smaller individual party horsd'euvres, and they are always really popular.
So, this isn't a Beef Wellington, which means there are no mushroom duxelles, and no piped mashed potatoes. Just the clean taste of barely-cooked salmon and the slightly sweet caramelized taste of pears. In terms of texture, there are three great ones -- flakey tender salmon, soft sweet pears and crispy crunchy puff pastry! Oh, and the occasional hit of Malden salt!
Rhys' Salmon Wellington
1 side of salmon, skin removed 1 normal sized tin of pear halves (or two ripe fresh pears) 1 large package of pre-made (all butter if possible) puff pastry horseradish or wasabi (optional) Malden salt Egg wash
Pre-heat your oven to 200 C.
Take your salmon, skin it if necessary, and trim the fillet into a good regular shape. (You can use the trimmings for other wonderful things such as chopping them up and cooking with red peppers, green onions and eggs for a brunch treat!)
Drain the pears and slice them finely across the body to make large, flat slices around 4-6 mms thick. Dry them on paper towels.
Roll out the puff pastry to just a bit bigger than twice the width of the salmon fillet and just a bit longer than it.
Lay out the pastry and sprinkle a little white flour over it to absorb some of the salmon juices. Lay the fillet on the pastry in the middle and check that it will wrap all the way around it with room to make a small seam.
Before you add the pears, season the salmon with Maldon Salt flakes (essential because they don't dissolve all the way, leaving nice little hits of saltiness) and coarse ground black pepper. And dot a bit of horseradish/wasabi on the fillet if you want. Then lay the pear slices over the fish. If it looks very moist, you can sprinkle a little more flour over it to soak up more juices, but be careful and make it very even and very thin (use a sieve to distribute it), otherwise you end up with clots of flour on the top the finished product -- not a Good Thing!
Then fold the puff pastry over the filling. Paint the area under the overlap with water so it will seal and then seal the top and the ends. Slice off any excess pastry. Make a couple of diagonal slices in the top to let steam out and paint the pastry with the egg wash (just a whole egg beaten for a few seconds). Sprinkle a bit more salt over the pastry (optionally, you can also sprinkle sesame seeds on it) and it's ready!
Bake in the hot oven for approximately 30 minutes or until the pastry is nice and brown but not burned. Let this rest for a good while to make sure the salmon inside completes cooking. (I like salmon to be almost not-cooked in the middle -- well, i love sushi after all! -- and by only putting one slice of fillet it, it cooks fast enough to match the pastry. Many salmon wellington recipes call for two slices layered on top of each other with a filling in between them, but they will not cook through fast enough for this way of baking). Of course, the baking time will depend upon how thick your salmon fillet is, but i find that a 'normal' fillet (from a 2 - 3 kg salmon) works fine this way. Like most of my recipes, there is room for a little improvisation here -- the watchword is indeed to WATCH and think -- if you pay attention, you can get it perfect!
For those who have a taste for more complex, intense flavours, you can drizzle a Mexican hot sauce (my current favourite is La Cholula Chili Lime -- yum!) or Sriracha hot sauce.
Another thing you can do is wilt some baby spinach and layer it between the pears and the salmon, but be careful not to add too much - the flavours are quite delicate and you can overwhelm them!
Another recipe by Nigel Slater from the UK uses sliced cucumbers in a mustard honey dill sauce. I haven't tried it, but am tempted.....
However you do it, be prepared to enjoy a wonderful, unctuous treat, and make enough to have some left over -- its great cold the next day, too!