Recipe video above. Too many cured salmon recipes are way too salty ot way too sweet! But once you know the right propotions, it's ridiculously simple to make and far cheaper than buying equivalent shop-bought versions.Gently flavoured with spices and a little vodka or gin, this a show-stopping, sophisticated-looking modern classic. Wonderful elegant canape or individually plated starter (fine dining favourite!), as part of an antipasto platter or cheeseboard, or just generally having in the fridge to nibble or use in sandwiches!1kg / 2 lb salmon will easily serve 16 people as a starter (slices are cut thinly)
Make beetroot cure: Place the beetroot, sugar, salt plus the gin cure OR vodka cure ingredients in a food processor. Blitz until pureed like a smoothie – about 15 seconds on high, scraping down the sides as needed.
Line container: Use a container into which the salmon fits snugly, but flat (Note 3). Line with two large pieces of cling wrap, overlapping one horizontally and one vertically, like a cross (so it will wrap salmon completely).
Place salmon in beetroot: Spread beetroot mixture on the cling wrap inside the container. Lay salmon on top, flesh side down. Press down lightly but not too firm – flesh should be fully in contact with beetroot, not base of container.
48-hour cure: Wrap up securely with the cling wrap, cover with lid (or seal container with more cling wrap). Refrigerate 48 hours (do not turn).
Rinse: Unwrap salmon, rinse off beetroot mixture, then pat dry.
Recommended – rest overnight: If time permits, place washed and dried salmon in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. This allows the salt to redistribute more evenly throughout the salmon. (Note 4)
Horseradish cream: Mix ingredients together until smooth.
Cucumber Ribbons: Use a potato peeler to make long thing ribbons lengthwise down the cucumber. Toss with vinegar and salt, set aside for 10 minutes. Drain liquid, toss with dill, transfer to serving dish.
Fried crispy capers: Heat oil in a small pan to 190°C/375°F. Fry capers for 30 sec/1 min until crisp. Drain on paper towels and cool.
Crispy bread: Brush bread lightly on each side with olive oil, then bake in a 180°C/350°F oven for 8 minutes, turning halfway, until crisp.
Plating: Place uncut salmon on a serving platter (one you can cut on). Scatter salmon with crispy capers and fresh dill. Place crispy bread and horseradish cream on the side, along with fresh lemon if using.
To serve: Cut thin slices down to the skin (but not through it). Pivot the knife blade so it's almost parallel to the skin and cut the each slice carefully away from the skin (you cannot eat the skin). Smear crispy bread with horseradish cream, top with salmon, a few capers, and sprig of fresh dill. Devour!
1. Salmon – Make sure it is very fresh salmon. Sashimi-grade is ideal, but it doesn't have to be because this is cured. But it needs to be very fresh – ask your fish monger to ensure it's fresh enough for curing (tell him you are making gravlax). Most importantly, smell the salmon - it should smell like the ocean and not "fishy" at all. You will know if it's not fresh enough, it will smell funky!Skin-on is best for ease of slicing thinly, as it holds the salmon together. Make sure the salmon is pin-boned – your fish monger should have done this for you, but check yourself by running your fingers across the surface.Trimmed, even piece: Look for a salmon piece with the most uniform thickness possible. This will ensure the most even cure and flavour. The best section to use from a whole side of salmon for this purpose is around the middle of the fillet (buy it, or trim yourself, below).What I do: I get a whole side of salmon 1.5kg / 3lb, then I trim it myself:Making a smaller quantity of salmon: You can make this with smaller portions of salmon. I would not use anything less than around a 250g/8oz fillet, however. Use the recipe scaler to adjust quantities, but then manually recalculate the salt, sugar and cure flavouring quantities to increase everything by 50%. This is to ensure there is enough cure mix to properly cover your salmon.2. Salt – You must use cooking or kosher salt, not table salt (the grains too fine, it makes salmon inedibly salty). Also, do NOT use iodised salt. The packet will say if it IS iodised. Iodised salt can make the salmon brown.3. Container – The perfect container size should fit the salmon in snugly but allows it to lie completely flat in the beetroot mixture without excessively contacting the base of the container (which will result in less red colour on flesh). If your container is too large, use scrunched up ropes of paper or foil under the cling wrap along the sides of the container to enable this to happen.4. Resting overnight for better result – When the salt mixture is initially removed from the salmon, the surface of the salmon (ends, top, sides) is saltier than the very middle. If you leave the washed and dried salmon overnight, the salt redistributes more evenly throughout the salmon flesh and also improves the texture of the salmon (becomes a bit more set, and is easier to thinly slice).5. Alcohol – Cured salmon gently flavoured with alcohol is a modern classic. It imparts a subtle taste of gin or vodka, gentle enough that even those who dislike these liquors can still enjoy it. However the alcohol is totally optional, and omission will not affect the cure! So if you have kids or cannot drink alcohol, replace alcohol with water (so our our cure blends easily and stays nicely runny).6. Other sauce options: Fresh horseradish is irritatingly hard to find in Sydney. I get it from the Sydney Fish Markets and sometimes at the local markets. If you can't get it, don't fall back to jarred horseradish. Rather, make a sauce using creme fraiche (sour cream is a back up) mixed with some lemon zest and fresh chopped dill. Another option: Dijon Mustard (a good one).7. Storage: Salmon keeps for 4 to 5 days after removal of salt (so factor in extra overnight resting if you do that). You can always tell by smelling when fish is past its shelf life - if it smells funky, it's no good! If fish was not previously frozen, it can also be frozen for up to 3 months.8. Nutrition – Calculated only for salmon cured in vodka. Condiments, accompaniments etc are not included.