We’re rapidly approaching the holiday season, and like everything else, the gravad laks gets a season touch. This recipe gives the Swedish classic a sophisticated touch, and makes it a perfect starter or appetiser.
Difficulty level: Very easy
Preparation time: 20 minutes (plus 72 hours to cure)
• Ask your fishmonger for salmon for curing (sushi quality) or use frozen salmon.
• Ask for two matching pieces for curing.
• The middle cuts of salmon tend to work better for this dish, but you can also use the tails.
• Use the cured salmon within 2 or 3 days or freeze the fish after curing to ensure that any parasites are killed off.
1.2 kg (2½ lb) salmon fillet, in 2 pieces, with skin on
2 tbsp white peppercorns
2 tsp juniper berries
60 g (4 tbsp)* coarse sea salt (kosher salt)
10 g (2 tsp)* light muscovado sugar
30 g (2 tbsp)* caster (superfine) sugar
25 g (4 tbsp) dill, roughly chopped including stalks
3 tbsp gin
*The salt and sugars are best weighed.
1. Run your fingers over the salmon to feel for any tiny pin bones. If you find any, remove them with tweezers.
2. Coarsely crush the peppercorns and juniper berries using a pestle and mortar.
3. Make your curing mixture by mixing together the salt, sugars, crushed pepper and juniper berries.
4. Cut a piece of clingfilm (plastic wrap) large enough to take both pieces of salmon.
5. Spread a little of the dill and some of the curing mixture on the clingfilm. Place the salmon fillets skin side down on top of it.
6. Rub the rest of the curing mixture over the surface of each fillet, pour the gin over and then add the remaining dill.
7. Bring the two pieces together to create a sandwich, with the skin on the outside. Wrap up well with the clingfilm, place in a freezer bag, trying to exclude as much air as possible, and then tie the bag. Place in a dish, top with a weight (such as a smaller baking dish or plate with cans of beans on top) and leave to cure in the fridge for 48 hours, turning every 12 hours or so.
8. Unwrap the fish, scrape off the dill and discard it. Rinse the salmon quickly under cold running water. Transfer to a fresh plastic bag and return it to the fridge for a further 24 hours to allow the cure to even out.
9. Slice with a very sharp knife, either vertically in 5 mm (¼") thick slices or at angle in large thin slices. Use within 2 or 3 days or freeze.
As an appetiser
Slice thinly and serve on top of thinly sliced rye bread. Garnish with a small piece of lemon and/or a little bit of one of the sauces below. Drip a little gin over the salmon just before serving.
On a smörgåsbord (buffet)
Slice thinly and serve on a large platter garnished with juniper berries and dill sprigs and accompanied by one of the sauces below. Drip a little gin over the salmon just before serving.
As a starter
Slice the gingravad lax thinly and serve with lightly picked cucumber, grated beetroot and a yoghurt or créme fraîche sauce. The quantities below are for 4 people.
For the pickled cucumber: peel a ridge cucumber and slice thinly. Add a teaspoon of white vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of freshly chopped dill. Cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate overnight in a fridge.
For the beetroot: wrap a large beetroot in foil and bake at 180°C (375°F, gas 4, fan 160°C) until tender, about an hour. When cool enough to handle, peel and puree with a tablespoon or two of honey and then season with salt.
For the sauce: place 120 g (½ cup) of thick yogurt or créme fraîche in a bowl and stir in the juice of half a lemon or a whole lime along with 2 teaspoons of sugar.
Quick mustard sauce
Mix equal quantities of mayonnaise and wholegrain mustard mixed with a little sugar and chopped dill.
Quick watercress sauce
Place a large bunch of chives, 80 g (3 oz) of watercress (tough stalks removed), salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of runny honey in a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth. Mix in 200 g (1 cup) of crème fraiche and transfer the sauce to a fridge for a few hours to mature and set.
Quick avocado sauce
Scoop the flesh from a ripe avocado and place in a bowl. Add the juice of 1 lime, 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 4 tablespoons of créme fraîche (or soured cream), half a teaspoon of salt, 3 drops of Tabasco and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped dill. Stir to mix thoroughly.
Crush a tablespoon of juniper berries. Add 120 ml (½ cup) of rapeseed oil and leave to stand for two days. Strain the juniper from the oil. Mix 100 g (4 oz) of wholegrain mustard with half a teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and a tablespoon of spirit vinegar in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the juniper flavoured oil.
Recipe published courtesy of John Duxbury, founder and editor of Swedish Food.