Updated: Mar 16
As a chef, I'm excited to share my recipe for Beetroot Cured Salmon paired with a vibrant Fennel Slaw. This dish is an ideal starter, delivering restaurant-quality Gravlax to your very own dining table with ease. With its simple preparation and mouth-watering flavour, this dish is sure to impress.
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What is Gravlax?
Gravlax is a traditional Scandinavian dish consisting of salmon that is cured in salt, sugar, and dill. The word "gravlax" is derived from the Swedish word "gravad lax," which means "buried salmon." This technique of preserving salmon dates back to the Middle Ages when fishermen would bury their catch in the sand near the shoreline to keep it fresh. The original recipe involved a light salting and pressing of the salmon, followed by a fermentation process.
Over time, the traditional method evolved into the cure we now know as Gravlax. The fermentation step was removed, which improved the aroma of the fish and made it very popular worldwide due to its ease of preparation. Many recipes call for different ratios of salt and sugar and varying lengths of the curing process. Traditionally, pine needles were used to give the Gravlax a distinct woody flavour, but dill has become a popular alternative.
In addition to the classic recipe, there are many variations of Gravlax that incorporate different spices and flavourings. Some popular variations include beetroot-cured salmon, gin and juniper berry-cured salmon, and orange and fennel-cured salmon. The versatility of the dish makes it a favourite among chefs and home cooks alike, and its delicate flavour pairs well with a variety of accompaniments, making it a versatile addition to any meal. If you have access to fresh dill, adding some to your Gravlax recipe can enhance the overall flavour profile.
Serving size: 10 people
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Curing time: 48 hours
Ingredients for Cured Salmon
1kg (2.2pounds) side of salmon (trimmed and skin off)
200g (7oz) of beetroot (peeled and diced)
120g (4.2oz) of cooking salt
70g (2.4oz) of sugar
40ml (3tbsp) of vodka or gin
2tsp of coriander seeds
2tsp of black peppercorns
1tsp of juniper berries
Ingredients for the Fennel Slaw
4 fennel bulbs (thinly sliced with a knife or mandolin)
2 small red onion (thinly sliced)
1 medium carrot (cut julienne or grated)
150g (2.6oz) of mayonnaise
4tsp of mustard (Dijon or English)
2 lemon zest
2 lemon juice
Ingredients for Garnish
small bunch of fresh dill
1tsp of nigella seeds
How to prepare Cured Salmon
1. To prepare the beetroot cure, blend beetroot, sugar, salt, vodka, and spices in a food processor for about 15 seconds.
2. Next, find a container large enough to fit the salmon and line it with a double layer of cling film wrap. Transfer half of the beetroot cure to the centre of the film and spread it to match the size of the salmon. Place the salmon on top and cover it with the remaining cure mixture, making sure to spread it over the top and all sides of the fish.
3. Tightly wrap the salmon in the cling film and place a weight on top of the fillet. Refrigerate for 48 hours. (While pressing the salmon is not necessary, it can increase the contact between the fillet and the cure).
4. After two days, remove the salmon from the container, unwrap it over the sink, wash off all the beetroot cure, and pat dry. Re-wrap the salmon in fresh cling film and store it in the refrigerator for up to one week, or vacuum pack it and store it for up to three weeks. (Once cured, handle the salmon gently as it becomes more fragile. For the cleanest cuts, use a very sharp knife when slicing.)
How to prepare Fennel Slaw
1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, the juice of one lemon, and lemon zest to make the dressing.
2. In another bowl, mix together sliced fennel, sliced onion, and grated carrot to form the slaw.
3. Just before serving, combine the dressing with the slaw mixture. Toss until the slaw is evenly coated with the dressing.
Tips for Beetroot Cured Salmon
The key to tender, juicy salmon is to dissolve the muscle protein myosin through the use of salt. By doing so, the muscle fibres become more tender and flavourful.
If you prefer a stronger flavour, you can extend the curing time for up to four days. Keep in mind, however, that the longer the salmon cures, the saltier it will become.
For a traditional taste, consider adding pine needles to the cure mixture. Pine needles have a distinctive, woody flavour that pairs well with salmon and adds an extra layer of flavour to the dish.
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