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Fish for Chrstmas, part 2: Gravadlax

With the herring pickling away in the fridge in the shed, it is time for the next part of the Christmas fish preparation – gravadlax. For this, I’m relying on a truly excellent book called Food DIY by Tim Hayward that I received as a birthday present; it has all sorts of recipes and ideas for those who like to get their hands dirty and expand their food-making skills. As someone who bakes bread and has even made a pork pie a few years ago, this is very much my sort of cookery book. I’ve read through and several recipes have jumped out at me, so I can foresee all sorts of culinary adventures for 2017.

But first, the Christmas gravadlax. Gravadlax is, quite simply, cured raw salmon. Hayward explains that it’s a Scandinavian thing – the word derives from the Swedish for ‘buried fish’ and originates from fishermen “saving part of their catch by burying it on the beach. Presumably the salt in the sand had a preservation effect”. Rather than the usual smoked salmon for Christmas, this year we are going for gravadlax. Our fishy festive saga started at Billingsgate a couple of weeks ago, and in addition to gutting and filleting the herrings for pickling I also filleted the whole (gutted) salmon that we bought. I ended up with two thick pieces, both about eight inches by four, along with several smaller fillets which are being frozen for other meals. The off-cuts were roasted, with whatever meat I could get from those being frozen for sandwiches at some point in the future. For now, though, the focus is on the two fillets which were defrosted yesterday, ready for being made into gravadlax.

The cure has four ingredients – salt, caster sugar, black pepper and coriander seeds, all of which were ground up in a mortar and pestle (which is which?). 

The result actually looks a bit like sand which is appropriate given how this method of preserving fish originated. 

Then there was some dill that needed chopping up. The two fillets were then laid out and a thick layer of dill applied to each, followed by the cure (which strikes me as slightly counter-intuitive, as I’d’ve thought that the cure should be in direct contact with the fish, but there you go). 

Then some not-chopped dill sprigs are put atop whichever fillet you’re flipping over.

Now for the tricky part – one of the fillets need to be flipped so that it goes on top of the other. The risk of cure mixture and chopped dill going everywhere at this point is probably why Hayward says that this should be done on cling film! 

The resulting sort-of sandwich then needs to be tightly wrapped in cling film and stored in the fridge for the next 48 hours.

So that’s the gravadlax ready – we eagerly await the result! The next part of the plan will be to bake some rye bread for it to go on. Hayward has a recipe for that, too…

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