There is much contention around the correct making of a gravlax – too much salt, too little sugar, never use steaks and what about the vodka? In actual fact it’s up to personal taste how much or little of each you add to your cure – the only rule is you must use fresh, filleted salmon.
Originally meaning ‘grave salmon’ because it was traditionally buried by fishermen in the sand and left to ferment, Gravlax has moved on somewhat from the old ways. A gentler curing method is preferred today – likely because it is quicker, produces a more delicate flavour, and we have fridges to preserve our food.
This particular recipe focuses strongly on the flavour of dill – an incredibly contentious subject in my in-law’s household! My husband and his siblings are religiously anti-dill, rolling their eyes and expressing utter disgust when faced with its feathery tendrils, much to the disappointment of their mother whose love of this aniseedy herb knows no bounds!
This simple and elegant dish is best served as a light starter and it’s sure to impress you guests. The best thing about it, though, is that you can prepare everything in advance. Just remember to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.
Prep time: 3-5 days including curing time
Serves: 4 as a starter
1 salmon fillet/steak – pin-boned – (300g)
1 bunch dill
10g coarse salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper
For the dill sauce:
60g white vinegar
60g canola oil
60g sour cream
2 heaped teaspoons of Dijon mustard
5g finely chopped dill
1 radish per person (thinly sliced)
1/4 Lebanese cucumber per person (thinly sliced)
Unless you have sashimi grade salmon then many chefs recommend freezing the fish before curing to remove any parasites. My own piece of advice, however, is NEVER buy packaged fish from the supermarket. Instead, take yourself off to the local fish shop or market and get a nice fresh fillet from the fishmonger.
If using a steak (as I did) first cut the piece in half.
Place the salmon, skin-side down on a plate with a circle of baking paper on it. Sprinkle all non-skin sides with the salt, then sugar, ground white pepper and the roughly chopped dill, in that order. Fold up the sides of the baking paper circle, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3–5 days, depending on how deeply coloured and intense-tasting you prefer gravlax.
To make the dill mustard dressing, place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined.
Before serving, scrape the cure off salmon. Using a long, sharp knife, thinly slice gravlax (against the grain if using a fillet) making sure you don’t slice too close to the skin.
Serve with a mustard dressing on rye toast or with a simple radish and cucumber salad.