The first time that the Boyfriend’s parents were coming to dinner, last summer in Ireland, was a bit of a challenge. It was intimidating enough having to meet the ‘out-laws’, as my Monaghan friend calls those to whom you are related by having a relationship with their son, but apparently the Boyfriend’s father wasn’t into spicy food. At that time, I was going though a phase where most things involved the addition of heat, whether in the form of a fresh or dried chilli or using some spicy hot sauce. So, the fact that I had to avoid my favourites made me do some serious thinking about what to cook. In the end, I decided to introduce them to that great Irish fish – the salmon. But, in order to minimise preparation and cooking on the day, I went towards the idea of making a savoury tart (sounds so much classier than quiche!).
As the Boyfriend was at the time working in Dun Laoghaire, he bought some beautiful salmon fillets from the pier so I poached them with a couple of bay leaves the day before we were going to have dinner. I also cooked the tart pastry base in advance, made, I must admit, from bought pastry. Being lazy, I find ready made pastry far more convenient and, I figure, it’s either use bought pastry or never make savoury tarts! One of these fine days, when I have both my food processor and a proper freezer in the same country I intend on making several batches of pastry from scratch and freezing them so I can be an oh-so-organised cook. Well, I can dream at least…
Last weekend I had the same guests for dinner so, as it had been a while since our first meeting and the Boyfriend’s father seemed to like my first attempt at a Salmon and Leek Tart, I decided to update the recipe. In my freezer I had several hot smoked Akaroa salmon fillets from a Vin de Pays food and wine tour I did earlier this year. I have often had cold smoked salmon, especially at home over Christmas time as part of the festive season, but never tasted hot smoked salmon before. The moment it passed my lips on the tour I was hooked. It has a more delicate flavour than the cold smoked variety and a lovely flaky texture. The friends that I was with were kind enough to buy me a bag of the fillets and that night a portion was put to delicious use with pasta and some cream. The sizeable remnants had ended up in the freezer as we were going away for a few days and stayed there, awaiting their fate, until the other night.
Although I specify hot smoked salmon in the recipe, you can – like I did the first time – use poached salmon or, alternatively, substitute cold smoked salmon. They’re all very good in their different ways. I use a half-and-half mixture of cream and crème fraîche to give the filling a bit of bite but you can, of course, use all cream – or all crème fraîche . I also add some paprika, more for colour than flavour, and am sure I got this idea from Clotilde’s exemplary Chocolate & Zucchini food blog but can’t seem to track it down there now.
Hot Smoked Salmon and Leek Tart
Shortcrust pastry – enough to line a 25cm quiche tin (when in Ireland I often use precut pastry circles from Jus Rol)
Leeks – 4 medium
Butter – 1 teaspoon
Hot smoked salmon fillets – 2 large, approx 300g
Eggs – 2
Cream – 150ml
Crème fraîche – 150ml
Paprika – ¼ teaspoon
Salt, pepper, olive oil
Preheat the oven to 190°C and place a baking sheet on the middle shelf.
Roll out your shortcrust pastry – if using precut pastry circles roll them a little thinner – and line the quiche tin. Line again with tinfoil or greaseproof paper, add a handful of ceramic baking beans, if you have them, or just use some dried chickpeas or uncooked rice to weigh the pastry down.
Cook for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then take out the tinfoil/greaseproof paper and baking beans and allow to cook for another five minutes.
Meanwhile, cut leeks into slices and wash under running water. Heat some olive oil with the butter in a deep frying pan. Add the leeks, season with salt and pepper and cook over a moderate heat until tender and there is not too much liquid lurking in the base of the pan.
Flake salmon. Spread cooked leeks across base of pastry case and top with pieces of salmon. Mix eggs, cream and crème fraîche together until smooth. Add paprika and season well. Pour liquids over salmon and leeks and cook on baking sheet in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes until set and browned. Allow to stand for a few minutes before serving – if the tart is too hot then you won’t get the full flavour of the filling.