Tuesday 5 January 2010

Home Cured Gravadlax

Whenever I pick up HF-W’s Fish book, I’m always drawn, as if by osmosis, towards the smoking and curing section. Hugh gets very excited about Gravadmax, but given that we had a beautiful salmon it would have been a crime not to do the proper version. Ever since we had some amazing gravadlax at the Dorchester Grill, I’ve wanted to make it myself.

Smoked salmon

Apparently gravadlax started in Scandinavia as a way of preserving the seasonal glut of salmon. They buried the fish in the sand at the high tide mark with dill, salt, pine needles and an array of other locally prevalent herbs and then removed it days, weeks or months later after it had fermented. The technique has since evolved away from pine needles and fermentation towards a more elegant solution involving pressure, salt, sugar and dill. Loosely translated the "grav" bit means to bury in a grave and the "lax" means salmon. Luckily "gravadlax" sounds a lot better than "decayed salmon".

Season your salmon on both sides with copious amounts of good quality salt. Then sprinkle with a few spoons of sugar. Then empty an entire jar of dill into the equation and cover the whole fish like a crazed Viking (shamefully we didn’t have any fresh dill). Say a couple of prayers to Thor and then slip the fish into a freezer bag. Pop this in a flat bottomed ceramic dish and then stack your heaviest cooking books on top to squish it down.

Squashing the fish

Pop it in your larder, or failing that, fridge and turn the fish over every 12 hours or so. Some juice should leach out and after 3 days you’ll be rewarded with some sensationally cured fish. You can leave it for longer if you like a stronger cure.

I cast my mind back to our meal at the Dorchester Grill and remembered the way our charming waiter had carved the gravadlax at our table side.

Gravadlax carving

Inspired by him, I sliced the fish on a slight angle with a super sharp knife and presented it in a rosette with a cup of mustard and dill spiked crème fraiche.

Cross section of gravadlax 2

Top down gravadlax ring

With a glass of shimmering Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc it was every bit as good as the tea smoked salmon we devoured the day before. And even if I do say so myself, as good as the Dorchester.


Hollow Legs said...

I am surprised it worked with dried dill.

My dad makes gravadlax every Christmas - it's become a tradition and he even morbidly said "when I'm gone you must carry this on". I don't make it any other time of the year for the fear it'll lose some of it's specialness.

We did a 5 day cure rather than 3 that we normally did - it was fantastic.

Paunchos said...

@Lizzie - I know. I was disappointed with myself for using dried dill. But it still worked well. We normally have masses of fresh herbs in the garden. But alas not under all the snow and ice. It sounds like a real traditiion in your household!

spiltwine said...

I am totally going to make this.

Did I you know I worked at the Savoy? The waiters there were like ninjas with their gravadlax and knife weilding skills.
I was always was amazed by the roses they crafted. Have you seen that? Just by layering the salmon and then rolling it over, kind of thing.
Anyway looks good!

ginandcrumpets said...

I think "salmon from the grave" has a quite a ring to it. It looks beautiful, and you also seem to have some seriously hefty cook books.

Browners said...

@spiltwine - I like the sound of the gravadlax ninjas. I've got a long way to go before attaining that sort of skill. Let me know how it goes.

@ginandcrumpets - It's all about the weight of the cookery books. A couple of volumes of Fat Duck cookbooks would be excellent.

Anthony Silverbrow said...

Looks delicious. What salmon did you use and did you go for the whole fish?

Browners said...

@Anthony Silverbrow - It was a side of wild salmon that my mother bought from a local fishmonger. I only used half a side and made tea smoked salmon with the other half. Both were delicious.

eatmynels said...

Just about to put mine in the fidge, My Larousse aint going in with it though.

Helen said...

Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful. I think it is a good thing that you used the dried dill because now people don't have to have a panicky hissy fit if they can't get the fresh stuff! No one should be denied the wonder of the gravadlax.

Kerri said...

It looks lovely. I didn't realise it was so easy, I'd really like to give this a try.

Your attention to detail with the cookery books really pleased me, Milton just wouldn't have been the same.

Browners said...

@eatmynels - Larousse would be an excellent book to use.

@Helen - It was a bit of a travesty not using fresh dill, but Hugh said it would be OK. And it was much better than just OK. Dried dill did the trick well.

@Kerri - It's a piece of cake. Just make sure you use a suitable weighty book!

Anonymous said...

Two comments to make here:

1. I have also tried to make gravadlax the more traditional way, with pine needles, juniper etc. and it tastes fantastic, a much more subtle flavour than the dill version

2. It is worth mentioning that gravadlax can also be made with trout rather than salmon (although it would not be called "lax" in that case)- I made some this Xmas using the dill method and it was excellent, perhaps even better than the salmon version


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