This is one of the best fish pies ever invented.
It's perfect for entertaining as it can all be made well in advance. Provided everything is cooled thoroughly first, all you have to do is cover it with clingfilm and leave in the fridge until needed, then pop it into the oven just before you serve the first course. Serve it cut in slices, with a large bowl of mixed-leaf salad tossed in a sharp lemony dressing, and hand round some Foaming Hollandaise sauce. Or you can simply melt some butter with an equal quantity of lemon juice and serve it with that.
First melt 1 oz (25 g) of the butter in a medium saucepan and stir in the rice.
When the rice is coated with butter, add the stock and a little salt and bring it up to simmering point, then stir well and cover with a lid. Cook the rice for 15 minutes exactly, then take the pan off the heat, remove the lid and allow it to cool. As soon as the rice is cooking, take a sheet of buttered foil, lay the salmon on it and add some seasoning. Then wrap it up loosely, pleating the foil at the top and folding the edges in. You can also watch how to cook Perfect Rice in our Cookery School Videos on the right.
Place it on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven for just 10 minutes – the salmon needs to be only half cooked. After that remove it from the oven, open the foil and allow it to cool.
While the salmon and the rice are cooling, melt the other 2 oz (50 g) of butter in a small saucepan and gently sweat the onion in it for about 10 minutes until it softens. After that, add the sliced mushrooms and half the dill, then carry on cooking gently for a further 5 minutes.
After that, stir in the lemon zest and juice, some salt and freshly milled black pepper, and allow this mixture to cool.
Next, take a large bowl and combine the salmon, broken up into large flakes, the hard-boiled eggs, the remaining dill and half the parsley. Give all this a good seasoning of salt and freshly milled black pepper. Next, in another bowl, combine the rice mixture with the onion, mushroom and the rest of the parsley, giving this some seasoning, too.
Now for the pastry. What you need to do here is take it out of its packet, unfold it and place it lengthways on a lightly floured surface, then using a tape measure, roll the pastry into a 14 (35 cm) inch square. Now cut it into 2 lengths, one 6½ inches (16 cm) and one 7½ inches (19 cm). Lightly brush the baking sheet and surface of the pastry with some of the melted butter and lay the narrower strip of pastry on to it.
Then, first spoon half the rice mixture along the centre leaving a gap of at least an inch (2.5 cm) all the way round. Next, spoon the salmon mixture on top of the rice, building it up as high as possible and pressing and moulding it with your hands – what you're aiming for is a loaf shape of mixture.
Then lightly mould the rest of the rice mixture on top of the salmon and brush the 1 inch (2.5 cm) border all round with beaten egg. Next, take the lattice cutter and run it along the centre of the other piece of pastry, leaving an even margin of about 1 inch (2.5 cm) all round. Brush the surface of the pastry with melted butter, then very carefully lift this and cover the salmon mixture with it.
The idea here is not to let the lattice open too much as you lift it, because it will open naturally as it goes over the filling. Press the edges together all round to seal, then trim the pastry so that you're left with a ¾ inch (2 cm) border. Now using the back edge of a knife, knock up the edges of the pastry, then crimp it all along using your thumb and the back of the knife, pulling the knife towards the filling each time as you go round. Alternatively, just fork it all around.
When you're ready to cook the coulibiac, raise the oven temperature to gas mark 7, 425°F (220°C) and brush the surface of the pastry all over with beaten egg and any remaining butter. And, if you feel like it, you can re-roll some of the trimmings and cut out little fish shapes to decorate the top.
Now place the coulibiac on to the high shelf of the oven and bake it for 20-25 minutes until it's golden brown. Remove it from the oven and leave it to rest for about 10 minutes before cutting into slices and serving with the sauce.
Open-freeze until solid then wrap well in foil or clingfilm. Unwrap and cook from frozen, allowing an extra 10-15 minutes’ cooking time for defrosting.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C).
You will also need a good solid baking tray 16 x 12 inches (40 x 30 cm) and a lattice cutter.