I joined some friends last weekend for a belated World Whisky Day celebration. The entry fee was, of course, a bottle of whisky (this year the theme was different finishing casks)... but we also each bring some delicious morsel that piques our interest.
This year, as I was bringing Glenmorangie's The Lasanta (aged in Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks), I decided my amuse-bouche would be sherry-based.
My treat was dried prunes, soaked in a dry sherry, then sprinkled with a pinch of salt, and eaten with a tamari-roasted almond. They were quite delicious - you only want to soak them for 5 hours or so though, they do go mushy. The salt is critically important; I'm not sure about the tamari, plain almonds may have been just as good.
Anyway, although my treat was great, it paled in comparison to one of the other treats - an amazing fresh salmon gravlax. I'd never heard of gravlax before, but it's actually just a method of curing salmon - sit it in a casing of sugar, salt, and dill for a couple days and it's done! Of course, I had to try it.
The recipe below has a couple tweaks, and it's taken almost entirely from https://www.recipetineats.com/cured-salmon-gravlax/.
- For the salmon, skin on or off doesn't matter. I did mine skin-on, and it's a little annoying - next time I'll take it off.
- The larger the salt granules, the better. I used this Himalayan rock salt. Avoid iodised salt, apparently.
- Prefer bigger sugar granules, too - probably not coffee crystals, but raw sugar worked really nicely. Avoid icing sugar or caster sugar.
- Use peppercorns if you can; they're fresher than pre-ground. If using pre-ground, add a bit extra. I used these ones.
- Curing time is tricky. I did mine for 86 hours and it was definitely a hard-cure, but was still really good. I imagine the whisky weekend version had only been a 48-hour cure.
- Salmon (de-boned)
- Salt & Sugar (ratio below)
- Pepper (about 2tsp per 500g salmon)
- Dill (optional - about 25g per 500g salmon)
- Coriander seeds (optional - about 2tsp per 500g salmon)
- Grated lemon rind (optional - about a lemon's worth per 500g salmon)
- Bruise your dill, crush your peppercorns, whack your coriander seeds, and grate your lemon rind
- Mix your cure. I used a recipe of 4:1:1 (fish:sugar:salt), but next time I'm doing 5:1:1.
- Once your cure is mixed, fold in your spices and aromatics.
- Spread out half of your cure, lay the salmon on top, and then spread the rest of the cure on top.
- Bag it up! I used a vacuum sealer, but a sandwich bag or some plastic wrap will do the trick.
- Pop it in the fridge with a weight on it (people recommend a plate).
- Flip it over every 12-24 hours. Be careful - a lot of liquid will come out during the curing process!
- Once you've cured it for 24-72+ hours, pull it out and gently rinse off all the clumps of dill/pepper/salt etc.
- Wrap it in a paper towel to dry it off, then leave it unwrapped in the fridge for a few hours to finish drying out.
- Enjoy! Slice it with a nice sharp knife. I'm told it should be sliced "thin enough to read a newspaper through".
- I've seen recipes that use aquavit... So next time I'm actually going to try a few tablespoons of gin!
- The 4:1:1 ratio wasn't bad - it's just that I ended up pouring out lots of big chunks of salt, so I think it was unnecessary wastage.
- I've didn't try coriander in this batch, but I'm super-keen to try it in the next one. I've also seen recipes use juniper berries, which is what made me think of the gin.
- What to eat with gravlax? We had it on a platter that also contained seed crackers, a couple cheeses, fruit paste, salami, capers, and pickled gherkins. The capers were great.