My French cooking lesson: Isabelle’s saumon en papillote

My friend Isabelle giving me a lesson in her style of French home cooking.

Kudos to all mums

Last weekend, my husband and I took a long overdue trip to Paris to visit some of our friends. A. was the best man at our wedding and it’s amazing to think that we’ve been friends with him for over 15 years.

Work, life, distance, having a child (him, not us) etc have all made it more difficult to see each other as much as we’d have liked but with friends like ours, it’s always refreshing to know that it doesn’t matter how much time has passed, we’ll have a good time when we do meet up again.

A few years ago, A. had a son with his partner, Isabelle, and this trip to Paris was all about spending time with them and their little boy, whom I’ll refer to as A+ as his name also begins with an A. I met A+ 3 years ago but haven’t seen him since; partly for reasons stated but also because my husband and I just aren’t very good with kids.

Many women simply won’t be able to understand this but my husband and I have never really desired to have kids. It’s not that we never tried, we did, but when it didn’t work, it wasn’t the end of the world for me or for him.

Most women react quite strangely to this when I tell them our story, and look at me oddly like I should be bursting into tears about it and I just don’t know why.

My life is no less fulfilling or fulfilled without children in it.

Meantime, I have plenty of love to give to my friends’ kids. I get all the fun of playing with them and none of the hassle as I hand them back at the end of the day, hehehe.

A+ enjoying a ride on a carousel in Montmarte.

Seriously though, I do have masses of admiration for all the women who have children, especially when it comes to mealtimes because nothing is more stressful that having to watch young children while you’re trying to whip up dinner at the same time.

Your ears are bombarded by shouts, cries, mumbling, laughing or screaming while little fingers are everywhere and in everything! All this while you’re trying to weld a knife and deal with saucepans, sauces, runaway vegetables, temperatures and a thousand other things. Phew.

So watching Isabelle do all this without even batting an eyelid was a masterclass in patience and poise – she is the ultimate cool cucumber.

Today’s recipe is 100% Isabelle’s own creation and I can truly say it’s quite simply one of the loveliest ways to cook and eat salmon. It’s a salmon fillet, dressed in chives and creme fraiche and wrapped in smoked salmon and pickled lemons before being baked/steamed in a ‘bag’ – it is truly divine!

I had the easiest job of all, just taking photos, writing up her recipe and eating, of course. 🙂

Dinner for one or dinner for more. Nothing beats that 'wow' factor of getting your own little food package.

I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I did, and in Isabelle’s honour, I dedicate it to all those hardworking mums out there. Bon appetit!

Lots of love


Isabelle's saumon en papillote, with pickled lemons (genius!) creme fraiche and chives all wrapped in smoked salmon

Isabelle’s saumon en papillote

This is a great dish for dinner parties because you can prepare the fish in advance and leave it aside or in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it. The quantities below are based on making one salmon fillet per person, so just multiply it based on how many packages you need to make.

I LOVE salmon 🙂 These fillets were seriously gigantic.


One piece of silver foil (for wrapping the salmon in)

One piece of fresh salmon, bones removed

One piece of smoked salmon

½ pickled lemon, sliced

1 tablespoon fresh/frozen chopped chives

¼ wedge of lemon

Herb-seasoned salt

2 tablespoons creme fraiche

½ – 1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (celsius).

On your square of silver foil, lay your piece of smoked salmon onto the foil and place the fresh salmon fillet on top of the smoked salmon.

Fresh salmon on smoked salmon. Genius!

I need to see if we can buy this in the UK but if not, I'll resort to herbs and salt mashed together in my mortar and pestle.

Squeeze lemon juice all over the fillet and smoked salmon.

Sprinkle a dash of herb seasoned salt over your salmon fillet and some black pepper.

Then top your salmon fillet with the chives.

Pour the creme fraiche over the salmon fillet and then wrap the smoked salmon fillet over your fillet and tuck the ends under the fillet so you end up with a little salmon parcel.

Drizzle some olive oil over the salmon with a pinch more black pepper.

You know this is going to be yummy even before it's cooked!

Again, need to make sure I can buy these in the UK or else I'll just have to go back to Paris hahaha.

Lay your slices of pickled lemon on the top and then seal up your salmon package, making sure it’s wrapped up properly and isn’t leaking.

To cook, bake in the oven at 180 degrees for 15 minutes then turn your oven down to 160 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes.

We had ours with grilled courgettes and some plain boiled rice. Bon appetit!

Your own personal food package

Isabelle's saumon en papillote with creme fraiche, chives and pickled lemons

15 Responses to “My French cooking lesson: Isabelle’s saumon en papillote”
  1. Eva Taylor says:

    I usually wrap food in parchment first and then the foil because I don’t think the foil touching your food is good for you (aluminum has been linked to certain brain disorders, like Alzheimer’s). What an interesting combo of smoked salmon and raw salmon. The ingredients in this little package totally remind me of bagels and cream cheese; all of the delicious flavours of the popular breakfast wrapped up for dinner!

  2. I’ve never heard of combining smoked salmon and fresh together for cooking like this. It totally makes sense, though, and I’m in agreement with Eva, reminds me of lox and cream cheese. I understand what you mean about kids. We and many of our friends are of the same mind, but more power to all the moms out there!

  3. YUMM!! This looks amazing. I have to look for those citrons confits… next time in Paris maybe.
    As a mum of four thanks, thanks, thanks and thanks! Wonderful post 🙂

  4. ceciliag says:

    Oh mercy, not every woman should be a mother. Just imagine! And look at that gorgeous salmon.. c

  5. Joanne says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post and learning more about you! And I must say, smoked salmon with a salmon fillet…pretty outstanding!

  6. Cara says:

    It’s funny how people aren’t ready to accept perspectives that are the opposite of theirs. Kids is an especially touchy subject, more so when you are a woman who doesn’t desire having children. Usually they wonder what kind of damage was done to you as a kid, assume that you are a crazy business-minded type of woman, or simply that you are lying to your self. I feel similarly with you about having kids. I don’t see anyone around me happier having kids, in fact, everyone tells me *not* to have them. Regardless, I am not ready, I don’t desire having them, and despite the fact that I can change my mind, I don’t want to at this point. Good for you and your husband for knowing what you truly want from life! Most people do what is “expected” and then enviously look at the single and childless people and wish they had their lives 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your response. I do get a bit fed up sometimes, partly also because we can’t have kids (not that we actually wanted it anyway but we actually tried because we felt under pressure to try…). It’s nice to find people that can understand what it’s like 🙂

  7. Caroline says:

    Gorgeous, and such wonderful photos! Argh, why must I not like salmon!? I know it’s delicious and healthy, etc., but I just can’t get myself to like the taste. But I’m thinking if it’s prepared like this, there’s no way I wouldn’t enjoy it. 🙂

  8. Monnier Anny says:

    Wooooooh! So proud to read you did appreciate Isa’s cooking ! That’s true she loves it and almost each time I go to Paris to visit them there’s a new recipe for me to try .Isn’t that great? . I really enjoyed reading you .
    Anny ,The ultimate cool cucumber’s Mum!

  9. kat says:

    Oh wow! I love salmon! This looks amazing! You take such beautiful photos! LOVE THIS! 🙂

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