“If you would be so kind as to offer us shelter, I’ll tell you all about our ordeal,” I said, clapping him across the shoulders. My drenched sleeve left an impression on his fur-lined vest. “I’m just grateful we had no losses. What is your wonderful cook preparing for us today?”
Callum laughed. “I told you, Granía. She’s an exceptional cook. Is that why you came to visit me? My army, my food—is that all you care about?”
I walked up to him and grabbed him by the front of his coat. “That’s not all and you know it.”
His eyed widened in feigned terror. “I guess we give you run of the camp, boss.”
I craved a hot meal. Callum’s famed cook served us piping hot salmon pie. I savored the buttery crust and salmon with dates and almonds made up the filling. After a few bites, I put my spoon down. “That’s it. I’m taking her with me. If all goes as planned, we’ll be celebrating Richard’s becoming the MacWilliam, and we’ll need a feast.”
“I should hope that if we succeed, I’ll be invited to this celebration, in which case I’ll gladly bring my steward and his wife. She can cook for you then. But she comes home with me. She’s the heart of this camp,” he said.
I smiled. “Come for the battle, stay for the celebration of victory.”
—Dark Lady of Doona, Chapter 6
We’re enduring the onslaught of the fiercely named blizzard “Nemo.” Yes, I could think of the captain of the Nautilus in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. However, due to Disney’s relentless marketing tactics, all that comes to mind is a goofy clown fish. The joke’s on us, though, since the city of Boston is completely snowed in. People who own Minis are not able to distinguish their little cars from a snow drift. It’s a good day to stay inside and cook.
Coincidentally, Granía O’Malley was treated to the same recipe after an epic storm as well, in the Dark Lady of Doona. The first time I made this salmon pie, my sweet-toothed husband loved it, but I found it to be overly sweet. As I continued to modify the recipe, I found adding onion and crumbled bacon balanced the flavors nicely.
Medieval-style Salmon Pie with a Tangy Shallot Sauce
(Either use store-bought crust, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, make your own—I followed the recipe in the Joy of Cooking)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/3 cup plus 1 tbs ice water
1 1/2 lb. salmon fillet, sliced in small chunks
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 to 4 strips bacon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tsp. ras el hanout spice mix (optional, but highly recommended!)
1/2 cup dates, chopped
1/2 dried figs, chopped (I’ve also used fig preserves, such as Dalmatia Fig Spread, flavored with orange)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup slivered almonds
To make the crust, mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Working quickly, cut butter into the dry ingredients. Use pastry blender to chop butter into pea-sized bits. Add shortening, and mix in blender—do not over-stir and let it get soft. Drizzle water and blend. You may need to add another tablespoon or so of ice water to have the dough stick together enough. Divide dough in half, press each into a round disk. Wrap each one in plastic and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes. If you’ve never made pie crust before, I’d recommend reading up on the process—it can be tricky!
Preheat oven to 375 F.
In a skillet, cook bacon until crispy and set aside. Cook chopped red onion in bacon fat, until browned.
In a bowl, mix dates, dried plums, raisins, salmon, and spices together. Add onion and crumble in bacon. Pour almond milk over and mix gently until the milk is completely soaked in. Arrange the filling in the pie crust, with the dried fruits toward the bottom and salmon chunks toward the top. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake the spiced salmon pie for about 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
Tangy shallot sauce:
1/2 stick butter
1 cup white wine
1 tbs smooth Dijon mustard
5 tbs crème fraiche
1 tbs finely snipped chives
For the sauce, peel, halve and finely chop the shallots. Melt the butter in a small pan, stir in the shallot, and cook gently for about 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the mustard and then add the white wine. Boil, uncovered, until reduced by half. Stir in the crème fraiche and chives. Simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens.
Serve a generous ladle of sauce over each serving of pie. Enjoy!
(Originally published February 2013)