Sunday, 30 October 2011

Scandilicious Style: Gravlaks

One of the many excellent cookbooks released by blogger's this year has been Signe Johansen's Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking - Scandilicious.  Signe is a Norwegian based in London and her book is full of fantastic recipes, making sophisticated Scandinavian food accessible.  There are plenty of classic recipes you'd expect to find like classic herring and potato, daim cake, rice pudding and meatballs, and each recipe is warmly introduced by Signe.  There are "Secret to making..." sections which focus on how to make things like yoghurt, jelly and salted cod.  There's plenty of bakes too, such as Jarlsberg and fennel muffins, cinnamon and chestnut bread, spiced chocolate cake and Swedish anchovy and potato gratin.  The design and photography are also beautiful and it's Scandi-cool cannot be denied. 

Signe recently visited Edinburgh and held a night at Scandi cafe Peters Yard.  It turns out that their pastry chef went to the same school as Signe - small world sometimes!  It was a lovely evening, where we enjoyed glasses of wine or warm glögg and food from Signe's book.  Peters Yard is well known for it's excellent crispbread and these comprised the canapes, with toppings of Swedish caviar and dill, chicken liver pate and beetroot, and smoked goats cheese with a slice of raspberry vinegar marinated radish adorning them.  The flavour combinations were simple but intense and quickly gobbled up by everyone there. 

One of the highlights of the evening was Signe talking about gravlaks (or gravadlax as it's known in Sweden).  Apparently, a  good Scandinavian housewife would traditionally know fifty ways to cure fish and Signe was kind enough to demonstrate for us.  The basic process is to tie two large salmon fillets together with sugar, salt and any other spices you may care to add.  There should be more sugar added than salt and Signe recommends using smoked sea salt, such as Maldons.  She mentioned other popular flavourings for the gravlaks, such as beetroot, fennel, cardamom, chillies, juniper berries and caraway.  It actually made me think of the black treacle cured salmon I tried at Kitchen Porters, which was delicious.  

The optimum time for the gravlaks to be cured in the fridge is 48 hours but a day either side should be fine.  There will be quite a bit of liquid released so it's best stored in a bowl or something that can contain this.  The gravlaks can also be made ahead and frozen until the day required and is easier to carve up this way too.  It tastes better by far homemade than any you can get at the shops and is perfect dinner party food - it can just be laid out for people to enjoy with dill or mustard sauce, or just by itself with some crispbread and fresh dill.  The recipe for gravlaks from Scandilicious is below - enjoy!

1.5 kg salmon fillet, cut in half lengthwise
1 tbsp white peppercorns
2 tbsp coriander seeds
100g granulated sugar
75g sea salt
45g fresh dill, chopped

1. Dry the salmon, check for pinbones and then place both fillet pieces side by side, skin down. Crush the white pepper and coriander with a pestle and mortar and then mix in a small bowl with the sugar and salt.
2. Spread the dill over the skinless side of the fillet halves, then spread the spiced sugar and salt in a layer on top. Sandwich both fillet halves, then spread the spiced sugar and salt in a layer on top. Sandwich both fillets together so that the dill spice mixture is in the middle and the skin is outermost. Cover any exposed surface of salmon with any dill and spice mixture that tumbles out. Wrap very tightly in two layers of clingfilm and place in a small roasting tin to catch the brine that escapes the fish as it cures. 
3.  Refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours and up to 48 hours. 
4. When the gravlaks has had time to cure, simply take it out of the fridge, remove the clingfilm, wipe the fillet halves clean of the herby spiced salt with a paper towel, pat dry and put on a board, skin down. 
5.  Put a layer of chopped dill on the skinless side of each fillet and press down as much as you can without squashing the fish.
6.  Slice on the diagonal from the tail towards the middle of the fillet and serve with hot new potatoes, rye or sourdough bread and dill mustard sauce.


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