Cook Book Challenge: Week 1

My dad has a penchant for op-shopping. Perhaps too much so. He’s often picking up recipe books for me (almost always cake ones) that I can barely fit in my kitchen. What results is that, more often then not, I flick through them when he gives them to me, like the look of a few things and never remember to come back to it.

So, I’m setting myself a challenge. Once a week, from here until goodness knows when, I will cook a recipe from every cook book I have until I have made it through my entire collection. I will endeavour to cook something I have never cooked before, or something I thought was too hard to try, or one of those recipes that I fell in love with but then forgot. I will then blog my result, good, bad or ugly.

This week, I thought I’d start off with one of the largest cook books I have:

The Practical Encyclopedia of Potato and Rice, by Alex Barker, Sally Mansfield and Christine Ingham.

This is one of my favourite cook books ever. It is divided into two halves: potato and rice, obviously. However, each half is preceded by almost a hundred pages of encyclopaedic information regarding these two staples, covering everything from cooking techniques to different types of potatoes and rice around the world. It is a wealth of knowledge, particularly for a self-taught cook like myself.

The hardest part? Choosing a recipe. With 512 pages of potato-ey and rice-ey goodness, there are so many amazing looking recipes amongst the bunch. But as I flicked through, I remembered one that had caught my eye when my dad gave me this book years ago:

Salmon in Puff Pastry. I just loved the presentation idea. Besides, we seldom have fish in my household, so time to get an omega 3 fix! (HELLO, puff pastry! Any excuse will do!)

Of course, I just had to turn it into small, individual serves. I swear, it’s an obsession.

Aesthetically, I think it worked better as a large ‘pie’. However, last night everyone was home for dinner at a different time, so this was also a practical measure.

But, for someone who has grown up without an appreciation of fish, this was great. The rice element made it something completely new to me, and the hint of lemon made it perfect.

Just looking at that picture makes me want to crunch into some puff pastry. It’s so tempting to whip some out now and bake away, despite it being past midnight. Puff pastry = love. Yeah, the tails were my favourite bit.

Of course, if you want to make some, here’s how:


Salmon in Puff Pastry


450g/1lb puff pastry

1 egg, beaten

3 hard-boiled eggs

90ml/6tbsp single cream

200g/7oz/1 ¾ cups cooked long grain rice

30ml/2tsp chopped tarragon

675/1½lb fresh salmon fillets

40g/1½oz/3tbsp butter

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt and freshly ground pepper



1. Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F Roll out two thirds of the pastry into a large oval, measuring around 35cm/14in in length. Cut into a curved fish shape and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Use trimmings to make narrow strips. Brush one side of each strip with a little beaten egg and secure in place around the rim of the pastry to make a raised edge. Prick the base all over with a fork, then bake for 8-10 minutes until the sides are well risen and lightly golden. Cool.

2. In a bowl, mask the hard boiled eggs with cream , then stir in rice and herbs. Spoon mixture on to the prepared pastry.

3. Cut salmon into 2cm/¾in chunks. Melt butter in a fry pan then add salmon. Turn the pieces over in the butter so that they begin to colour but do not cook through.

4. Remove from heat and arrange on top of the rice. Stir lemon juice in to butter, then spoon over salmon.

5. Roll out remaining pastry and cut out a semi circle piece to cover head portion and a tail shape to cover the tail. Brush both with beaten egg. Score a criss-cross pattern on the tail.

6. Cut the remaining pastry into small circles and, starting from the tail end, arrange in overlapping lines to represent scales. Add an extra one for the eye. Brush with beaten egg.

7. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce to 160°C/325° and cook for a further 15-20 minutes until pastry is evenly golden. Serve.

Do you have a kitchen full of unloved cookbooks? I encourage you to join this conquest with me! It’s amazing the gems you will find in forgotten former loves.


11 thoughts on “Cook Book Challenge: Week 1

  1. I am definitely going to following your journey AND start my own.

    My major problem is cooking for two. Me and a 90 year old mother who has developed a finicky appetite!

    My first cookbook will have to be Small-Batch Baking.

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