Leaf wrapped salmon is an easy-but-impressive dish, on top of being enormously healthy. As an everyday meal, it also makes a nice change from the grilled/baked salmon fillets we usually have.
One Christmas a friend gifted me this book called 'Nourishing Traditions' by Sally Fallon, which once had caused quite a stir in the world of diets and nutrition.
It was first published in mid-1990s and, in short, it was an early paleo/keto harbinger. Saturated fats good, unsaturated – bad. Meat and fish okay, soy products – nasty.
Lots of plants but in their simple form, fermented foods, sourdough bread, nothing about it seems startling to us now but back in the 90s a recommendation to eat lots of butter, drink kefir and ditch pasta was quite brave.
A lot of the recipes in the book are tediously complicated and feature ingredients not readily available (whey, arrowroot and fish roe) plus far too many curries to my taste, but the recipe below is stalwart.
This dish is a healthy version of salmon en croute: a side of fish or an individual fillet wrapped in pastry and baked.
Salmon does not need to be pre-cooked for that as it only takes minutes to bake, especially swaddled in pastry. Salmon en croute, coulibiac or salmon wellington means pastry, shortcrust, puff or even bread dough, which makes for a delightful dish but not necessarily lean or healthy.
This is a healthful twist: still delicious, but pastry is replaced here with lettuce leaves. Clever, huh?
How to prepare the salmon?
Depending on how many people you’re cooking it for, use the whole side of salmon or just half/a piece.
It will cook quicker and will be easier to prepare if the salmon is skinless, though I agree with everyone who thinks skin on the salmon adds flavour in cooking, even if you discard it on the plate.
It’s seasoned only with salt and pepper because the spinach filling is going to give the dish a lovely flavour.
How to prepare the spinach?
This can be made with both fresh as well as frozen spinach.
If using frozen, thaw it and squeeze out excess moisture – you don’t want the salmon to swim, hehe.
Fresh spinach should be washed and blanched either in boiling water or in the microwave, with each method only for a brief spell. Again, squeeze out moisture as much as you can and chop the leaves roughly.
It will then need to be cooked with a little oil and some crushed garlic cloves. A tablespoon of cream cheese will thicken and smoothen it.
How to prepare the lettuce?
Any lettuce except iceberg is suitable to use – an iceberg head is too tight and you want the leaves a little bit more meaty and fleshy than iceberg. Either cos or romaine is probably the best: large leaves that will not disintegrate when blanched and baked.
Lettuce also needs blanching, so that the leaves are pliable and wrappable.
Assembling the dish
Find and butter an ovenproof dish that will fit the salmon piece comfortably. If you’re cooking the whole side, it will be tricky to find one so I suggest using a baking tray the length of the fillet.
With a smaller piece it’s an easier job: lining the buttered dish with lettuce leaves with a lot of overhang on both longer sides. Onto that the salmon fillet goes, skin (formerly) side down. The spinach mix is next, spread all over the fish.
And then you need to fold over the overhanging lettuce leaves so the salmon is completely swaddled and the dish forms a neat parcel.
It will only need between 15 and 25 minutes in the oven, depending on the size of the piece. Out of the oven it will benefit from a short rest before cutting it into chunky portions and serving.
It will be lovely with buttery mashed potatoes.
For the wrapping, you can use spring (hispi) or savoy cabbage leaves but those will need to be blanched a little longer to soften.
Instead of spinach (though in my view it’s a dream companion to salmon), use chopped and cooked mushrooms or a ratatouille thickened with some cornflour. Good options are also piperade, caramelised courgettes or creamy leeks with garlic.
More salmon recipes
Chunky salmon burgers with capers, mint and dill, are best served with chilli yoghurt dip. The bun is optional.
Salmon and potato bake with creamy topping on the salmon and a pinch of crisp Parmesan on the potatoes – it’s a healthy and easy fish tray bake. As suited for a weeknight as for a special occasion.
Salmon fillet cooked with oyster sauce and a touch of brown sugar is a perfect umami storm. Salmon gently simmered in the sweet and salty sauce with spring onions and crushed garlic is ready in 10 minutes.
More spinach recipes
How to cook spinach? Simply, with lots of butter and thinly sliced garlic. Buttered spinach is a perfect side dish, healthy and ready in minutes.
Tian de courgettes, courgette and spinach gratin, courgette bake - however you call it, it's a great vegetarian recipe. Zucchini and spinach are a well matched couple, elsewhere appearing in risottos, pasta and frittatas.
Spinach and blue cheese pancakes aka crêpes. European pancakes are thin and - you guessed it - flat as a pancake. The savoury pancake filling is easy and makes a gorgeous dinner not just dessert.