I recently developed an addiction to smoked salmon and gravlax – every week during my trip to the farmers’ market, I’d be lured by the sight of whole sides of salmon being sliced so quickly and smoothly you’d think it was butter. Wrapped up in perfect little parcels or served up on sourdough with a dollop of crème fraîche and a jaunty sprig of dill. What’s not to love on a Saturday morning?
Soon what started as an entree for weekend lunch with friends turned into a weekly habit: a nice little treat with my husband… or sometimes just for myself. Going up by 100g a week. Taking home the salmon bellies to turn into stock. I lived for smoked salmon Saturdays and gorging on gravlax on a Monday. Then, my beloved salmon stall moved on to another market and I was left bereft.
So, what’s a girl to do? Make her own, duh.
This gin-cured salmon is the easiest, most impressive starter you could serve up for friends – of course, I won’t judge you for eating it all yourself. And all you need is a salmon fillet, sugar, salt, a little dill and a splash of gin – Bombay Sapphire works well as all those botanicals do lovely, lovely things to the fish. And I’m all for introducing a little bit more gin into my life. Around 250g of salmon is enough for two rather greedy people.
You will need to start this recipe a day in advance
250g salmon fillet, skin on (this keeps the salmon moist and, I think, easier to slice)
2 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 bunch dill, finely chopped
A splash of good gin
1. Combine your salt, sugar and dill in a small bowl and pour over enough gin to turn it into a moist paste.
2. Line a shallow tray with cling film but don’t trim yet: leave it attached to the roll as you’ll need to wrap the salmon several times.
3. Spread a little of the salt mixture in the bottom of the tray. Place your salmon, skin-side down, in the tray and spread the remaining mixture on top.
4. Carefully wrap the salmon in the cling film – go for three or four layers, but keep in mind it will leak no matter what you do, so keep it in the tray!
5. Place it in the fridge overnight, turning once, for the salmon to cure and the flavours to infuse.
6. Rinse the fillet in cold water to remove the salt mixture and use kitchen paper to carefully pat it dry. Sharpen your knife and cut your salmon – aim for 5mm slices. If you’re feeling extra fancy, serve it with some bubbles.
Photography: Selina Altomonte