The CureApril 28, 2011
Apologies for my absence here lately. I am nearing the pointy end of editing for my novel Animal People, with the finished copy-edit due back at the publishers Friday week. It feels like the last chance to really get it as right as I can make it, so am sweating over each line again after considering the larger shape of it for a good while. Hence, little time for dropping in here, which I regret. Today’s recipe is a cross-post of something I wrote a few weeks ago for Murdoch Books’ 365 Day Challenge blog, in which various home cooks test recipes from Stephane Reynaud’s 365 Good Reasons to Sit Down & Eat. My first dish (two more to come) was this cured salmon. I’ll be back soon with some Indian vego stuff I’ve been making lately from another new book I’ve discovered, which is making me swoon. But until the novel is done it’s back to the book for me …
Cured salmon with peas
Cured salmon, or gravlax, has to be one of the most impressive dishes a girl can make in terms of bang-for-the-effort-buck. Apart from the curing time, which varies in recipes from 24 hours to several days, the actual preparation and garnishing time is around ten minutes max.
While other recipes often include vodka or gin in the curing mix, Stéphane’s cured salmon only uses sugar, salt & dill, and it worked just fine for me. As I was making it for two, rather than six, I just bought a single thickish salmon fillet (about 400g) but used the same amount of curing mixture as the recipe recommends for 800g; the result was fine and yielded plenty for snacks and light lunches.
For the preparation, all you do is mix a tablespoon each of coarse salt (I used ordinary cooking salt), coarsely ground pepper and sugar with one bunch of chopped dill together in a bowl, and then smother the salmon fillet in this mix.
Then comes the waiting. Stéphane says leave the salmon in the fridge (I’d recommend in a glass or ceramic dish) for 48 hours for it to ‘purge’ – to remove the water content in the salmon, concentrating its flavour and sort of toughening up the texture. Because we were out in the evenings a lot this week I ended up leaving the salmon for another 24 hours on top of the recommended 48, and liked it very much. I think perhaps for my taste 48 hours might not be quite enough, but it really is a matter of taste I reckon. The longer you leave it the dryer it gets, the stronger the flavour – and perhaps the thinner you should slice it.
Once the curing time is up, take out the salmon and pat it dry with paper towels and slice. Stéphane recommends serving thickish pieces – 5cm in fact – but once I tasted it I preferred it very thinly sliced, as we’re used to eating with smoked salmon. It’s very rich, so paper thin shreds are delicious.
I really loved Stéphane’s addition of the shaved bits of shallot and lime, and the peas. As I was in a rush to serve I couldn’t be bothered zesting, so I just sliced the lime as thinly as possible and then quartered the slices, leaving the skin on. I also used thick, Greek-style natural yoghurt instead of the recipe’s combined olive oil & crème fraîche, which sounds amazing – but if you’re trying this for healthy midweek cooking, as I was, could be a little too sumptuous. The lazy cook in me also prefers frozen peas (I can’t get enough of them) so used frozen peas pinged in the microwave for half a minute instead of fresh peas.
The flavour and texture combo of the silky salmon, the soft peas and yoghurt with the sharp, slight bitterness of the lime and shallot was fantastic. I’ll definitely be doing this little baby again sometime – as a beautifully simple starter, for starters, or tumbled together as an addition to a table full of salads. A big tick for this one from me.