The croc loaf does not bite! It’s a fish and vegetable loaf in a crispy pastry shell… surprise your kids and guests with this impressive main dish! Find this and many more recipes with pictures on the English version of the Giallozafferano App http://itunes.apple.com/app/giallozafferano-recipes/id384387249?mt=8
Firstly, make the shortcrust pastry from scratch, it’s very quick and easy, you’ll see: butter, cold from the fridge, and flour, put the flour in a food processor with a metal blade and add the diced butter – instead of shortcrust pastry, you could use bread or pizza dough, or puff pastry, if desired – now process until breadcrumb like, so the butter and the ice cold water will be better incorporated into the dough. Quickly bring the dough together, then knead on a work surface. Shortcrust pastry has a high butter content, so you should work in a cool environment; in summer, you can keep the bowls in the fridge, including the metal blade. The dough is smooth, now pat it flat, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to set.
While the dough is cooling, boil the potatoes with the skin on: wash and add to cold, salted water, cover with a lid and cook for at least 30-40 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Sauté the peas and carrots in a pan, cut into very small cubes, a pinch of salt and a few thyme leaves: cook the vegetables until softened, adding a little hot water if necessary. And while they’re cooking, chop the cod: use deboned fillets, cut first into strips, then into small cubes and chop it up with a knife. I’m using cod, but you can use your favourite: hake, monkfish, sole... The cod is ready, move on to the bread. I’m using rustic bread: remove the crust, cut into cubes and process until fine crumbs form, that help absorb the excess moisture and keep the mixture together; stale bread is fine as well.
That’s all I need for the loaf mixture: pass the potatoes through a ricer into a bowl; the skins remain in the ricer. Add the carrots and peas and the cod – all the ingredients should be pretty dry – grated cheese, grated nutmeg, a pinch of thyme, a pinch of salt and lastly the bread crumbs, and mix to blend. The resulting mixture should be firm and dry, so you can add more bread crumbs if needed. The filling mixture is ready, it’s time to assemble.
Roll out the dough to a thickness of ⅛ inch (2-3 mm), about 20 inches (50 cm) long by 12-14 inches (30-35 cm) wide; form the mixture into a loaf shape and place in the middle of the rectangle, leaving more space at one end for the crocodile’s face. Using a fluted pastry wheel, cut the dough into strips at an angle, a couple of inches wide, 5 or 6 strips are fine, on both sides. Fold one strip over the filling, do the same on the other side, like a plait, and continue in this way, alternating from side to side. The filling is encased in pastry, now shape the crocodile’s head: fold into a triangle, trim the excess dough, press down to flatten and let the filling come out, so that it fills the head; fold over to cover the filling and form a triangle. Cut off the tip of the head and shape into a square, then roll a piece of dough into two balls for the eyes: press an indentation into the centre and place on the crocodile’s head. Next, the crocodile’s tail: cut the dough like this and here’s the tail. Move on to the feet: cut out 4 squares from the remaining dough, cut first into trapezoids, then cut off small triangles to resemble the crocodile’s claws. Repeat to make four feet, then transfer the croc loaf to a parchment lined baking tray. Arrange the feet, then brush the pastry with the beaten egg for a golden and shiny finish. Now, the most complicated part: snip the dough with the tips of a pair of scissors to create a crocodile’s skin effect. Bake the croc loaf in a static preheated oven at 350°F (180°C) for about 45 minutes. And while it is baking, let’s see together the ingredients needed for this recipe!
For the shortcrust pastry
- just over 3 cups (400 g) of flour
- ½ cup (100 g) of cold butter
- just over ½ cup (140 ml) of ice cold water
For the filling mixture
- 1 lb (500 g) of cod
- ½ lb (250 g) of potatoes
- 3,5 oz (100 g) of carrots
- ⅔ cup (100 g) of peas
- 1 ½ cups (80 g) of stale bread crumbs
- ½ cup (50 g) of grated cheese
- 1 pinch of grated nutmeg
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- a little extra virgin olive oil
- 1 egg