I love salmon in all it’s iterations. Simply grilled, I love it baked in a light sauce, I love it in fish tacos, I love it smoked, and now I love it when it’s cured as it is to make gravlax in this recipe.
To get the best results, pristine fresh salmon is a must for this dish (look for fillets with no signs of mushiness or liquid collected). This really should be sourced from a fishmonger. If you care about sourcing local, sustainable fish (this is, fish that are caught or farmed in a way that isn’t damaging to the species or the ecosystem in which they live), it can be tricky to know what type and where to source your fish from. A super useful resource to work this out is the Good Fish Bad Fish website. Ideally try and get Australian salmon, or alternatively trout can also very easily be used in this recipe.
Gravlax is a popular Scandinavian dish. During the Middle Ages it was made by fishermen, who salted and lightly fermented the salmon and other types of fish by burying it in the sand above the high-tide line (it was also put in barrels covered with birch bark). This may be where it got its name, as ‘grav’ in several Scandinavian languages means grave, and ‘lax’ or ‘laks’ means salmon. It would last a few days and was a great way of preserving fish through winter. Nowadays it’s no longer buried, but cured, using salt, sugar and dill as this recipe does.
A few cooking tips:
- Before coating the salmon with the spice mixture, be really sure it is free of bones. Remove any you find using tweezers.
- I think the perfect curing time is probably 36-48 hours… if you go more than 48 hours it will end up a little too salty and starts getting a bit tough.
- If you want to go the whole way: capers, pickled cucumber, sour cream, rye bread and lemon wedges)
- This is lovely served just with fresh lemon, but it also goes really nicely with Rick Stein’s horseradish sauce – recipe here. Or if you want to go the whole way, serve it with capers, pickled cucumber, sour cream, rye bread and lemon wedges.
The recipe is adapted from this Gourmet Traveller recipe.
- 400 g sea salt
- 300 g sugar
- 1 cup dill (finely chopped)
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- Zest of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup gin
- 2 tbsp juniper berries (crushed)
- 1 kg salmon fillet (skin on and pin-boned)
- 1/4 cup hot English mustard powder
- 1/4 cup caster sugar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 300 ml cream
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 lemon
Combine salt, sugar, dill, cracked pepper, lime zest, gin and juniper berries in a food processor and blitz until you have a green, wet salt mixture (this is known as a ‘cure’) – don’t over blend.
Unravel some cling film on a bench but keep it attached to the roll. Sprinkle over 1/2 of the curing mix and lay the salmon the centre, skin-side-down. Pack the rest of the curing mix over the flesh side of the fish and wrap tightly in plastic, then place on a large deep tray. Top with a smaller tray or board and weigh down with food cans.
Refrigerate for 2-4 days (48 hours minimum), turning the fish every 12 hours, where possible.
For the mustard sauce, combine mustard powder, sugar, sea salt and cream in a small saucepan. Whisk until smooth, place over medium heat, add olive oil and cider vinegar and whisk to combine.
Bring the sauce to the boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for 15-20 minutes or until sauce is golden and thick. Cool, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
To serve, unwrap the gravlax and brush off the marinade with kitchen paper. Rinse it if you like. Using a fine, sharp knife, thinly slice the gravlax and serve with the mustard sauce and fresh lemon.