It does take a bit of time to make this, so it’s definitely one for a long weekend or a celebratory holiday, but it is so much fun to do and it’s such a spectacular dish to serve that it’s well worth that little bit of time spent forward planning.
The fennel salad cuts the richness of the salmon and the mustard–dill dressing adds a lovely herby sweetness to the mix.
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) rock salt
140 g (5 oz/2/3 cup) sugar
2 teaspoons coarsely crushed black peppercorns
60 g (21/4 oz/1 bunch) dill
900 g (2 lb) salmon fillet (one whole side), skin on and bones removed
rye crispbread, to serve
2 fennel bulbs (about 600 g/1 lb 5 oz)
2 Lebanese (short) cucumbers
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
60 ml (2 fl oz/1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
125 ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) sunflower oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill (reserved from the bunch)
- Put the rock salt in a bowl with the sugar and crushed peppercorns. Finely chop the dill and add it to the bowl, reserving 2 tablespoons for the dressing. Stir to combine.
- Line a shallow dish or tray with plastic wrap and put a little of the salt mixture over the base.
- Place the salmon fillet, skin side down, on the bed of salt and then cover the fillet with the remaining salt mixture. Put another piece of plastic wrap over the fillet and then tightly wrap the plastic around the fish. Put a slightly smaller tray or cutting board on the fish and weigh it down with a heavy bowl or several tins.
- Refrigerate for 2 days, turning the fish every 12 hours.
- To make the fennel salad, cut the fennel bulbs in half, reserving any fronds. Using a mandolin or very sharp knife, cut the fennel into paper-thin slices and place in a bowl. Thinly slice the cucumbers and add them to the fennel. Sprinkle with the salt and toss well to combine. Set aside for 30 minutes, then drain away any juices sitting in the base of the bowl.
- In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil and coriander. Pour the dressing over the fennel and cucumber and toss to coat. Finely chop some of the fennel fronds and sprinkle them over the top.
- To make the mustard–dill dressing, whisk the mustard, sugar and vinegar together, then whisk in the sunflower oil in a thin stream. Stir in the reserved dill and season with freshly ground black pepper.
- Unwrap the fish and brush away any excess salt and herbs. Put the fillet onto a clean board and thinly slice with a very sharp knife. Cut the fillet as you would smoked salmon, starting at the tail end, holding the knife on the diagonal and cutting down towards the skin.
- Serve the sliced gravalax with the fennel salad, dressing and rye crispbread.
Recipe by Michelle Cranston, taken from A Simple Table: Fresh and Fabulous Recipes for Every Day.