The 4th Day of Christmas
Gravad lax is the much underrated alternative to
supermarket smoked salmon that so often has
never seen smoke - just a bottle of liquid smoke
flavouring! Gravad lax originates from
Scandinavia and the land of the Vikings who
were famous traders in cured and dry fish.
'Gravad' comes from the word for 'grave' and
'Lax' is Scandinavian for salmon in the days
when fishermen saved some of their catch by
salting and burying it in it’s ‘grave’ - the beach.￼
Thee preservative effect of salt curing slows
decomposition just as well then as it does now - a
lot easier than smoking too!
Since cure with additional herbs and spices changes the texture and flavour of the fish, gravad lax is good for farmed salmon which is not the same quality and leanness as wild. You can get acceptable results with frozen fish so there is no excuse for not buying a whole salmon occasionally. Just buy as fresh as you can which is the main conditioner of quality when cured.
To begin, fillet your fish using the head to hold on to then trim off the fins and square up the two resulting fillets. Leave the skin on to slow curing rate and give you a handle to cut the fish (and free sandpaper if you dry it!)
To make the cure
150g Trapani sea salt
150g caster sugar
30g coriander seeds
50g black peppercorns
bunch of fresh dill
Finely chop a bunch of dill and set aside ready since the cure quickly releases free water from the flesh so you have to work quickly and methodically. Grind the dry ingredients in a pestle and mortar or hand blender and lay the salmon fillets skin down in a non-reactive tray then rub well with cure. Aim to have 2-3mm cure along the thick section and less near the tail so not to oversalt the thin bit. Apply a thick blanket of dill ontop of the first fillet then rub a layer of cure on the next fillet then turn it over and lay thick end to tail cured side down on the other fillet with the skin facing up like a dill sandwich. Slide the whole lot into a 15x40cm vacuum sealer or Ziplock bag and remove the air and seal. Alternatively, wrap the fillets in clingfilm and seal the ends.
Refrigerate for 2-3 days, maybe a bit longer if you go lighter on the cure, and massage daily to move the cure about. Some people weight the salmon down to squeeze out the juices but I usually vacuum pack to reduce the amount of cure needed compared to dry curing in a box and cure a bit longer. Obviously, temperature will retard or advance curing which can be an advantage if you want to have one side of salmon one weekend and the other a week or two later.
Unwrap the fish, rinse off most of the cure and chopped dill then wrap in clean sterile teatowel to dry. Do a taste test and if it is a bit salty (remember here that when you add a splash of lemon or vinegar the result can be attractively piquant) soak in cold water for 30-40 minutes then dry again. Apply a sprinkle of finely chopped dill for decoration but don't go overboard. Lay the fillet skin side down to cut and take thin diagonal slices which include a green layer of the cure along one edge.
Gravad lax is traditionally served in Scandinavia and IKEA with dill sauce. At Squisito we like just a bit of lemon juice and smoked black pepper but if you want to get the full Abba on here's my dill sauce recipe:
for the dill sauce
50ml of cider vinegar
50g muscovado sugar
50g of Dijon mustard
30ml vegetable oil
big bunch of dill, chopped
Serve with bread or boiled potatoes, sweet mustard and dill sauce above with shots of Sara’s iced quince or lemon vodka.
For variations you can cure different pieces of salmon with beetroot, wasabi, vodka, horseradish or Scezchan pepper and gin just to name few flavours we have tried. Scrambled eggs with gravad lax with the Sunday papers or on Boxing Day is always a favourite.
Serve with a nice bit of Squisito 'Integrale' bread (that's half white dough and half brown dough before you ask!) and some nice organic butter.
If you want your gravad lax ready made or smoked or call Sara on 07824 314 235
Available for collection at Jewellery Quarter Christmas Market 4-9pm this Thursday,
Kings Norton Christmas Market 5-9pm Thursday 20th, Moseley Farmers Market 9-2pm on Saturday 22nd December or Mac Arts Centre Food Market 10-4pm on Sunday 23rd December or home delivery anytime.