Lemongrass & Lime Gravadlax
Ancient fishy alchemy with a few bits and bobs
With all this Scandinavian fare being so right on at the moment its enough to make anybody want to head for the forests, lakes and fjords and indulge in a feast of cured salmon, meatballs and cloudberry desserts finished (Finished?) with lashings of vodka and a trip to the sauna for some birch twig flagellation action. Alas no such trip for me but a birthday party for a Swede…and so I felt compelled to up the ante in the cured fish stakes.
Curing fish is really old food alchemy where sugar and salt pass through the cell membranes of the fish, displacing a lot of water in the process to render microbes and bad things inert…hooray! It takes about three days and your opaque fresh salmon will transform itself into something firmer, translucent and altogether more alluring.
Of course the Norsemen favour dill, sugar and salt – and why not? Up there there isn’t a lot else. This cure combines some of my favourite strong flavours yet robust salmon can cope with them. When you mix up this cure a word of warning: as aromas of lime, orange, lemongrass and star anise waft all around you might be tempted to scoop up a handful and dash into the shower for an invigorating mini -sauna scrub! a new fish curing party idea perhaps? or perhaps not.
- 1 filleted side of very fresh salmon – this will be approx 800g-1kg – with the skin off. Dont worry if this seems a lot – the whole point is that this keeps! What I do is slice it then keep in vacuumed bags in the fridge for 6-8 weeks but you can also freeze it – its not quite as good texture wise but its better than throwing away. Worse case – the frozen pieces use in a salmon pate or a quiche.
- large bunch dill – this may seem counter conceptual with all the tropical and exotic flavours going on – but it works
- 250g coarse sea salt
- 250g sugar
- 1 lemongrass stalk
- 4 star anise
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- zest of 1 orange
- zest of 4 limes
Gadgets & Gizmos
A pestle and mortar for grinding the spices. A deep ceramic or plastic container. Ideal is a pyrex dish with a plastic resealable lid. I use a food grade plastic container but second best (only because I’m scared of dropping it, its actually better to use glass or ceramic and avoid fishy odours in a plastic container) is my large pyrex dish.
Smash the star anise and coriander in a pestle and mortar roughly. Finely chop the lemongrass. Add to the sugar/salt and zests. (steal some for your sneaky shower scr
Place half the salt in the dish and lay the salmon on top. Cover the salmon with the remaining cure and pack it down. Cover with clingfilm.
I leave mine for three days and every day give it a good turn and general prod to make sure the cure is doing its work.
By day three you will just have brine and the fish will have changed noticeably. When it feels firmer and (i always like this bit) looks a bit see through… its ready.
Slice thinly with a sharp knife into strips. You can curl into rosettes and serve on blinis or place on a plate, drizzle with a little olive oil and serve with some green salad leaves – I like mache. Or perhaps the best way to enjoy is on very good brown bread, spread with the best butter you can find. Amen.