Gravlax with beetroot and cucumber
This salad of Gravlax salmon with beetroot and cucumber was inspired by the height of summer and the arrival of the season’s incredible vegetables. The earthiness of beetroot, both in sweet, roasted chunks and in crisp, raw slices, is balanced by the sharpness of lightly pickled young cucumber and the piquancy of capers.
Curing salmon is a fantastic technique to make something expensive that bit more special. The aniseed dill, the floral notes of gin and the aromatic juniper cut through the oiliness of the salmon and make the fish taste fresh and clean.
Serving a plate covered with thin, coral slivers feels incredibly generous, so Gravlax is an amazing way of making salmon go further. Despite the recipe only using two large fillets, it should leave you with plenty of leftovers, to enjoy with rye bread, cream cheese.
Serves four to six
For the Gravlax
two similarly shaped, thick centre cut fillets of salmon (about 500g or just over a pound)
45g or one and a half oz caster sugar
30g or one oz sea salt crystals
a large handful of chopped dill
10 peppercorns, roughly crushed or chopped
10 juniper berries, crushed with the blade of a knife
a few tablespoons of gin
For the salad
a large beetroot (about 400g or fourteen oz)
three small cucumbers or three quarters of a large one
a teaspoon of salt
60ml white wine vinegar
25g or three quarters of an oz caster sugar
a few young beetroot (about 300g or ten and a half oz)
a small handful of dill
a few capers
Ensure the salmon fillets are bone free and place one of them, skin side down, onto a couple of layers of cling film. Next, mix the sugar, salt, dill, peppercorns and juniper in a bowl and sprinkle with enough gin to moisten the salt and sugar mixture. You’re looking the consistency of crushed ice. The cure should be damp enough so that it can be satisfyingly piled onto the salmon, but dryer than the flesh of the fish so the moisture is drawn out and into the sugar and salt.
Pile the cure onto the salmon fillet and place the second fillet on top, so that both flesh sides are pressed against the cure. Tightly wrap the fish with the cling film, piercing a few holes in the surface. Place onto a plate and cover with a baking sheet, weighed down with tins or the weights from a set of kitchen scales. Refrigerate and leave to cure for 24 to 48 hours, turning the fish every 8 to 12 hours. The longer the salmon cures for, the more moisture will be drawn out from the flesh and the solid the texture will become.
Wash and thoroughly scrub clean the beetroot. Roast the large ones whole in a oven preheated to 180°C (fan oven)/ 200°C/ Gas Mark 6/ 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat the unpeeled beetroots in a little olive oil, place into a roasting tray amd roast the veg for between an hour and an hour and a half. The roasting time will depend on the size of your roots, but you’re looking to caramelise the sugars on the surface, whilst cooking the interior til tender. You still want the beetroots to retain a little bite but once cooked, you should be able to pierce the centre with a small amount of pressure on a knife. Peel and allow the beetroot to cool.
Whilst the beetroot roasts, you can prepare the cucumber. It’s lightly pickled to counterbalance the sweetness of the roasted beetroot and the saltiness of the cured salmon.
Cut a few lengths of peel from the cucumber using a speed peeler, halve and then cut centimetre slices. Sprinkle with salt and leave for ten minutes, before rinsing with plenty of cold water. Allow to sit in a colander to let any excess water to drain off. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar and then mix well with the cucumber. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.
Once the gravlax has cured, the beetroot has cooled and cucumber has pickled, you can bring the salad together. The remaining small and raw beetroots can be washed and thoroughly scrubbed clean, before cutting into thin disks. When young, the raw beetroots have all the earthy sweetness and crunch of carrots and bring a wonderful contrast the soft salmon. Having done it’s work, the cure can be scraped from the flesh of the salmon and the fillets can sliced into thin slivers. Any leftovers can be tightly wrapped in clingfilm and stored in the fridge for several days. The roasted beetroot can be cut into uneven faceted wedges and the cucumber can simply be lifted from it’s pickle. Place everything onto a plate and finish off with a few delicate fronds of dill, a few capers, a small splash of the liquid from the cucumbers, a drizzle of olive oil and a little freshly ground black pepper.