Gravlax is perhaps the best-known Scandinavian dish. The Swedes have a saying that gravlax should be made in silence, in coolness and in shadow. It certainly seems to encapsulate the spirit of Scandinavian food: it combines the tang of the sea with greenery, the dill brings a breath of pine forests into the kitchen and the entire dish represents a clean, simple approach to cooking.
Gin and Juniper Cured Salmon with Apple and Fennel Cream
For the salmon:
- 3lb 5oz (1.5kg) piece of salmon (preferably organic) in 2 halves, filleted but skin left on
- 8 tablespoons gin
- 1-3/4 oz (50g) sea salt flakes
- 2-3/4 oz (75g) caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds (from the bulbs below)
- 1/2 oz (15g) chopped dill
- 3/4 tablespoon crushed juniper berries
- buttered rye bread, black bread, or pumpernickel, to serve
For the cream:
- 2 small fennel bulbs
- 2 small tart apples
- 10-1/2 oz (300g) soured cream
- 2 teaspoons caster sugar
- 5 teaspoons grain mustard
- big squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
- Run your hand over the salmon flesh to make sure there are no little bones in it. If there are, remove them with tweezers.
- Spread out a piece of foil big enough to wrap round the salmon. Put another piece, the same size, on top. Rub some of the gin all over the 2 pieces of salmon and set 1 piece of it on the foil, skin side down. Pour a little more gin over the fleshy side of the salmon, then mix the salt, sugar, pepper, fennel fronds, dill and juniper and press this on top of the fish. Sprinkle with a little gin. Put the other piece of salmon on top, skin side up. Sprinkle over the remaining gin.
- Fold the foil round the salmon to make a package. Set it on a wire rack and put this in a roasting tin that can catch the liquid that will seep out of the salmon. Place a weight such as a chopping board on top and put in the fridge. Turn the salmon package from time to time while it is curing. You can leave it for anything from 1 to 6 days.
- To make the cream, remove any tough outer layers from the fennel and trim the ends. Cut the bulbs into quarters lengthways, then carefully slice the central core out of each piece. Cut the fennel into fine strips, about the length of your index finger (it’s best to do this with a mandolin). Halve and core the apples (you can peel them too, if you like) and cut them into matchsticks. Mix the fennel and apples with the soured cream, sugar and mustard, taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice, if you wish. Cover and keep in the fridge.
- Unwrap the package and scrape the salt and sugar off the salmon. Using a very sharp knife, cut the salmon flesh horizontally into thin slices, leaving the skin behind. Serve with the apple and fennel cream and thin slices of buttered rye bread, black bread or pumpernickel.