This is a recipe I got from my aunt. Estelle originally found something like it in a newspaper or magazine, lost the copy, reconstructed it from memory, and then roughly wrote down a recipe for me (which I have also modified a little), so I attribute it to her. This was one of my absolute favourite things to eat during my teenage years, but we would only have it when we went to visit Estelle and her family in Melbourne – knowing how I loved it, she would always make a large salmon pie for dinner the first night we arrived to stay with her.
A few years ago, Estelle wrote down the recipe for me in a cook’s file (a cookbook where you write in and organise your own recipes) that she gave me, and now I am amazed that I haven’t made it more. This is not just one of the most delicious things you will ever eat, but it is extremely easy. You can forego making the dough if you like, and use most any kind of store-bought dough, but even the pastry is extremely easy (particularly if you have a food processor) and very, very good. I guess the last thing worth mentioning is that the dough recipe is really for a savoury pie – I have so far avoided the American tradition of making sweet pies, and therefore don’t really have advice on how it could be modified for dessert pies.
Estelle Irving’s Easy Cream Cheese Pie Crust
125g (4.5 oz) salted butter
125g (4.5 oz) cream cheese
125g (4.5 oz; roughly one cup) plain white flour
A pinch of salt
While you are setting everything up, leave the butter out to soften a little. (If you are going to use a food processor it needn’t be particularly soft, but it will still be easier to work with). Roughly chop up butter and cream cheese. (You can see from the picture above that I didn’t perform this step, but this was only because both my butter and cream cheese had melted a little too much). Put all the ingredients into a food processor, and process until the pastry suddenly forms a ball (if it is really very soft and sticky, you can add slightly more flour). It was particularly exciting for me to have a food processor for the first time since leaving home – a housewarming present from my darling mother. But, if you do not have a food processor, you can cut the wet ingredients into the flour using a knife, which mimics the action of a food processor, and will also end up with a ball of pastry dough. Knead lightly on a lightly floured surface until smooth, and then wrap in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes. (If you are in a rush you can omit this stage without any dire consequences).
Estelle Irving’s Salmon Pie
(the best salmon pie you will ever make)
One large can (or two smaller cans) of salmon
5 large tablespoons of good mayonnaise
Two heaped tablespoons of seeded mustard
2 tablespoons of plain yoghurt
Juice of half a lemon
1 1/2 cups of grated monterey jack cheese (or just tasty cheese)
4-5 spring onions (scallions), chopped
Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and use it to line a large, deep pie or casserole dish. Prick the bottom a couple of times with a fork. A tip from my mother who read about my pastry troubles in my last blog post: If you have difficult getting your rolled-out pastry moved in one piece from the board to the dish, roll it around the rolling pin, and then unroll over the top of the tin.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade (350 fahrenheit; medium heat). (Here is a tip with baking – always try to put whatever you are baking in the middle of the oven, because it gets the most even heat. It may be worth looking in your oven before you preheat it to check that there is an oven rack in the middle of the oven and it is not covered with bread tins etc. These will be much easier to remove when the oven isn’t hot.) Drain the tins of salmon, but not obsessively, and empty into a large bowl. Tinned salmon will often some with some little round bones in it (dare I say it without putting you off: spine) that are fine to eat, but not great, so go through and try to remove these. Mash the salmon and then mix in all other ingredients (how easy is that!). Pour/spoon your salmony mush into the uncooked pastry-lined baking dish. Place in the oven and cook until golden brown and smelling truly delicious. Do not overcook as the filling will set a bit more after you take it from the oven. You should have a crisp brown pie-crust and a lovely moist (though set) filling, that is golden on top, about 45 minutes.
Serves six to eight.