Popeye’s Popular and slightly Brazilian Spinach and Salmon Pie
“…the gods of Olympus ….watched tirelessly over the master of Roccapendente and his family – who, for their part, heads down and jaws going at full tilt, were tearing apart a fish pie of colossal dimensions and completely ignoring all that beauty”.The Art of Killing Well, Marco Malvaldi
Don’t ask me why I think this is Brazilian – I’m a little hazy on that subject – suffice to say that I got the idea for it from something I tried when I was there earlier this year, and then when I returned I experimented and made further amendments (adding the hollandaise for example).
It got enough votes of appreciation that I made triple quantities for a slightly surreal dinner party to which I’d invited a couple of people I hadn’t seen for twenty years; many who didn’t know each other; guests with ages ranging from 25 to 65; and even one intrepid invitee who I hadn’t ever met before. The pie passed this test also with flying colours and I basked in the warm, united approval of the disparate miscellany around the table.
In particular the mustard and parmesan-laced mash that blankets the fish in this recipe is the main contributor to this pie’s popularity.
Why Popeye? Well, it’s got fish (the salmon, obviously, and Popeye is a ‘sailor man’) in it… and spinach.
Popeye has done more for spinach than anyone else. From 1928-33 he singlehandedly raised spinach sales in the US by 33%!
Brazilian Popeye (salmon and spinach) Pie
Serves – 4
- 660g/ boneless salmon fillets
- 80g/⅓ cup olive oil
- 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed with one tsp smoked salt
- 240g/8 oz ready-washed spinach
- A few grinds of nutmeg (buy this grater if yours keeps falling apart)
- 1 banana shallot, peeled and finely chopped
- 120ml/½ cup crème fraîche
- 200g/7 oz ready-made, ideally fresh, otherwise in a jar, hollandaise sauce
- 700g/1½ lbs mashed potato – you can use instant if you use this method
- Generous grinds of Indonesian long pepper and more smoked salt
- 1 generous tsp Dijon mustard
- 50g/½ cup grated parmesan
- Couple of knobs of butter
- Preheat the oven to 180°C
- Grease a medium-sized ovenproof dish
- Oil and season the salmon and then fry it in a flat-bottomed wok (or if you don’t have one, a big frying pan) for about five minutes (turn once) – the flesh should no longer be translucent, but you don’t want to overcook it. Take out, leave to cool, and flake into the ovenproof dish.
- In the same wok lightly fry the garlic for a minute or two. Take out with a fish slice (go here if you’re looking for a good fish slice) and add to the flaked fish mix.
- Add the spinach; more seasoning and some generous grinds of nutmeg; and a couple of knobs of nutmeg – cook a couple of minutes to wilt, and add to the fish.
- Fry the shallot for a few minutes until it starts to go translucent. Add the mustard and the crème fraîche and just warm through gently (don’t boil or it will separate).
- Mix well into the fish. Add in the hollandaise sauce. Stir in well.
- Meanwhile, make the instant mashed potato, and top the flattened down fish mixture with it.
- Dot with a little more butter, and sprinkle over the cheese.
- Cook in the oven for about half an hour – the cheesy crust should have turned deep golden, slightly caramelly. If it hasn’t, turn up the heat to 210°C and cook for another 5-10 minutes.