19 May 2012

Smoked Cod Koulibiac

First of all, what is a a Koulibiac?  Well, in my Mum's time, it used to be known as "Russian Fish Pie" and is a combination of fish (most recently, involving salmon) in a sauce, encased in flaky or puff pastry.

I have seen photographs of what purports to be a Koulibiac, but which looks more like a Salmon En Croute.  For me, what defines a Koulibiac is that the pastry is used to create a pyramid shaped pie, rather than simply being rolled around the piece of fish.  I've certainly never seen an En Croute dish that ever looked like a Koulibiac!

In my view - and I accept, I might be in error in this belief - smoked fish is integral to a Koulibiac.  Certainly the only ones I've ever made have included smoked cod or haddock.  Other ingredients after that depend entirely upon whatever you fancy including - although a choice of either prawns or hard boiled eggs also seems to be traditional.

All sealed and ready to bake
The Koulibiac which hubby made for us last Sunday, involved smoked cod, king prawns and queen scallops.

You would be forgiven for wondering how we managed to finance such an exotic mix of fish - but in truth, you don't need a huge amount of the smoked fish (especially if you're including other seafood), we had half a bag of king prawns left over from another dish - and four queen scallops isn't very expensive at all.

It was hubby's first ever go at making rough puff pastry and he'd be the first to admit that it didn't go exactly to plan.  He is is own worst critic however - and I can tell you that it was so close to being perfect that I'm sure another go would have the method down pat for him.  Hence, if you are looking at the photographs and wondering about the pastry - well that's what happened.

See that teensy piece of scallop coral?  Gorgeous!
However, if you want to have a go at cooking this recipe - and why wouldn't you, it's gorgeous - I am quite sure that shop bought puff pastry would do an admirable job for you. 

It is important with this recipe to make the sauce ahead of time, so that it has time to cool.  Believe me (because I've tried), it is not easy to encase hot sauce in rapidly melting pastry.

There's just something so moreish about smoked fish in a softly flavoured white sauce - let alone finding luscious king prawns and a scallop along the route - that just floats my boat.  Russian fish pie or Koulibiac - call it what you will, it will always be a favourite for me.


Ingredients :

500g pre-prepared puff or flaky pastry
1 egg, Beaten
2 eggs, hard boiled (optional)
300g smoked cod or haddock fillets
200g king prawns
4 queen scallops , corals removed and chopped
60g unsalted butter
60g plain flour
1 onion, halved
2 bay leaves
a pinch of nutmeg
1.5 pints semi skimmed milk
handful of chopped parsley.

Method :

1.  For the sauce :

Place the milk, onion, nutmeg and bay leaves in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
Cut the smoked fish fillets in half so that they fit the pan easily and then poach them in the milk for three minutes.

Carefully remove the fish and the bay leaves from the milk and place into a bowl before covering and setting aside.  Remove the onion from the milk and discard.

Next, melt the butter into a saucepan before adding the flour.  Incorporate the flour into the melted butter with a wooden spoon, to form a thick roux paste.  Allow the flour to cook out for a few minutes, taking great care not to let it stick to the base of the pan.

Once the roux has turned a nice pale golden, add a little milk and stir vigorously to mix.   The milk will vanish almost instantly into the roux, at which point, more milk should be added.  Continue this process until the mixture resembles a very thick (and probably fairly lumpy) sauce.

At this stage, add the chopped scallop corals and swap your wooden spoon for a balloon whisk and continue adding more milk to the sauce.  Keep whisking and adding more milk until you have a smooth, velvety, but thick white sauce.  Remember that the seafood will release liquid into the sauce during cooking so take care not to make the sauce too thin.

Carefully fold the bay leaves and smoked Fish into the sauce, trying not to break the fish up too much, before leaving to cool to room temperature.  Once cooled, add the cooked prawns and the chopped, hard boiled eggs (if you're using them) to the mix before assembling the Pie.

2.  For assembly of the Koulibiac.
Roll the pastry into a square, roughly 7mm thick.  Lay the rolled pastry onto a sheet of baking parchment and brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg.  Now form your saucy fish mixture into a high pile in the middle and place the four scallops on top in such a way that each quarter of pie has a scallop in it.  Now draw the four points of the pastry square to the middle, forming a four sided pyramid shape. Crimp each pastry seam shut before egg washing the whole pie and transferring to a large baking sheet, parchment and all.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180degC/350degF/gas4 for 45 minutes and then allow to cool for five minutes before serving.



  1. Hi Jenny - I've stumbled this post for you, too. Hope your page views shoot up on it. It is a nice post.

    1. Thanks Carole! Hubby and I have been steadily Stumbling posts and it's having an effect - so thank you very much for setting us off on this. :)


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