Salmon Coulibiac with a Scandinavian Pastry

This is a special dish, suitable for a celebration or family gathering. And it is excellent for Christmas Day lunch or dinner. Although there are a number of elements, none is particularly tricky. Just make sure to allow enough time and the making of this should prove a pleasure (3-4 hours in total). Some elements can be made in advance, even the day before. The recipe is quite traditional but I have added a twist with the ‘Scandinavian’ pastry. This is easier to work with than rough puff, it cuts beautifully and the light cheese flavour from the quark really complements the fish. The coulibiac is also delicious served cold the day after. You can also use flakey pastry or brioche pastry as an alternative.


  • 250g softened, unsalted butter
  • 250g strong bread flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 250g quark cheese
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Pancakes to line pastry

  • 2 ½ oz plain flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4pt whole milk
  • 1/4pt water
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp finely chopped dill

The Fish

  • About 1.5lbs/750-800g middle-cut salmon in one piece
  • 125g/4oz butter
  • ¼ cup sunflower oil
  • Salt & pepper

The Filling

  • 270g button mushrooms
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 180ml double cream
  • *15 saffron strands
  • 70g white rice
  • 180g butter
  • 4 shallots
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • Small bunch of flat leaved parsley
  • 125g/4ozs plain flour
  • 63g/2 oz unsalted butter
  • 200g fresh spinach – pre-washed
  • Salt & black pepper
  • Bouquet garni x 1



In a large bowl put soft butter and quark and mix well with a hand held mixer for 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together, and transfer to butter/quark mixture. Use a wooden spoon to combine together to form a dough. Transfer to lightly floured surface and give it 5-6 kneads until smooth. Cut in half and cover each with Clingfilm and refrigerate for 45 – 60 minutes to firm up.

The Mushrooms

Chop the mushrooms finely and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Heat butter in pan, add lemon juice, chopped shallots, and half the cream – 90ml – and cook over gentle heat until all liquid has evaporated. Season and allow to cool.

Prepare the rice

Cook the shallots in some butter over a gentle heat.  Add the rice and 110 ml water, the saffron, the bouquet garni, and some seasoning and cook on stove top until all liquid is absorbed – about 12 – 15 minutes. Transfer to bowl and allow to cool.

Make the pancakes

Beat all ingredients together to make a thin batter. Use an oil spray to lightly oil pancake pan, and pour 1 small, ladleful of batter for each pancake. Make a batch of 8, cover and leave aside.

The eggs

Boil eggs for 7 minutes, run under cold water, peal and roughly chop. Leave aside.

The Spinach

Destalk the spinach leaves, and steam for a few minutes until wilted.  Drain and season and leave aside.

Assembly of the coulibiac

Firstly cook the salmon in a large frying pan for 4 minutes each side using the butter and oil. Transfer to large plate to allow to cool thoroughly.  No matter if salmon is still undercooked in centre. It will finish cooking during the bake.

Roll out one half of the pastry to a rectangle – 40cm x 30cm x 1cm approx, and transfer to greased tray.

Line it with some of the pancakes leaving ½ inch round the edges.

Put ½ of the mushroom mixture along the centre of pancakes, and place the salmon fillet on top in the centre.

Put a layer of spinach on top of salmon, then the hard-boiled eggs, followed by the rice.

Cover the filling with pancakes and cut off any overlaps with scissors, as necessary.  Cover with other pastry half and seal and crimp the edges. Leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Turn oven on to 180ᵒC while waiting.

Final stage

Brush coulibiac with egg wash. Make an opening in the centre of the loaf to allow steam to escape.  Either score the pastry with a small knife to give a pattern, or use cut-outs from the pastry trimmings.  Bake the coulibiac for 35 – to 45 minutes. Allow to stand for 5 minutes on its tray and then transfer to serving tray carefully with 2 large palette knives or large fish slices and serve hot. It also tastes delicious the next day at room temperature.

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6 Responses to “Salmon Coulibiac with a Scandinavian Pastry”

  1. margaret kennedy
    October 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    congratulations, you are a true star, I hope to meet you some day in Ireland; I have a problem with this recipe. You do not use the flour or the other half of the cream in the ingredients list. kind regards.

    • brendan
      October 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

      Hi Margaret. thanks for getting in touch. Please bear with me, but it has all gone a bit crazy this end, with roun ds fo interviews, and offered projects, all of which needs thinking about and managing. We will discuss the recipe and see what is the problem, and happy to rectrify, but This is what I did on the show and followed it exactly. but will investigate as soon as able.
      Warm wishes Brendan

  2. Julie
    December 25, 2012 at 7:29 am #

    Hi Brendan and Merry Christmas!

    I made your coulibiac for my family for Christmas Eve dinner last night, it all went well and was enjoyed by everyone, thanks! My Polish sister-in-law said her granny used to make a Christmas coulibiac that had the same pastry but a filling of mushrooms and cabbage.

    But I have to point out that that in the indredients you list; half the cream (from the mushrooms), 125g of plain flour and 63g of unsalted butter that are completely unaccounted for in the method! I presume they are for a white sauce? Maybe with the spinach in? Anyway I didn’t want to risk it so I left them out and we had the spinach as a side vegetable :-)

    Hope you enjoy your Christmas dinner today as much as we all enjoyed this pie!

    • brendan
      February 24, 2013 at 10:30 am #

      Glad you enjoyed the coulibiac. Thanks for alerting me to the unaccounted ingredients. Will check and amend.

  3. Alison
    January 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    I made this for the evening on Christmas day and everyone loved it. I prepared most things on Christmas eve and then just put it together and cooked on the day. It doesnt actually say what to do with the other half of the mushrooms but I just put them on top of the rice. I only used half of the cream.

    • brendan
      February 24, 2013 at 10:28 am #

      Glad you enjoyed it!

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