A few weeks ago Gav and I visited some friends for dinner. Needless to say there was a copious amount of wine involved and I ended up getting nicely hammered.
The next morning I awoke to a freezer full of salmon. Not remembering anything of a fishy transaction, I learnt from Gav that our friends hate salmon and that a well meaning relative had bought them some. I say some, I mean a lot. Along with some fillets and steaks there was a side of salmon too.
Our friends obviously saw us as a more worthy consumer (scoffer) and I was ever so grateful… but I also wondered what the hell I was going to do with the side of salmon. It was so big that it was folded in half to fit in the freezer and it had no chance of fitting in the oven (not whole anyway).
Then, with Christmas coming up, I had a brain wave and planned to use this PJ Taste recipe to cure it in time for breakfast on Christmas Day. That didn’t quite work out. In the run up to Christmas I felt as Christmassy as a kick in the teeth and I was not in the right frame of mind to come home from work and start messing about with a side of salmon.
There was no particular reason for this Bah Humbug attitude but I think it had something to do with working through the run-up, not putting the Christmas tree up (Gav did it this year) and not having any big Christmas meals to plan (we ate out).
Anyway, on watching Saturday Morning Kitchen on Christmas Eve I was impressed with Nathan Outlaw’s Beetroot Cured Salmon and decided that I was going to give it a go (I was also impressed by his deep-fried oysters but that one will have to wait).
Making the decision to go ahead with this was one thing, planning the execution was another. First of all this hunk of fish needed to defrost. Then I needed to plan the curing process around work and sleep. See, it takes 30 hours in total with a turning of the fish after 10.
I made the curing mix (500g raw, peeled beetroot chopped, 1tsp fennel seeds, 1tsp of Bart’s tarragon in oil, 500g sea salt and 250g sugar blitzed in the food processor) late one evening and left it in the fridge overnight to be used the next day.
At about 8am I tackled the fish. Bearing in mind I had to set off for work at 8.15 I was annoyed that I hadn’t thought about picking the bones out earlier and started tugging at the spiky things with a pair of scissors. Then I fretted about the fact that the fish hadn’t been scaled, thought about skinning it, decided I didn’t have time and just thought ‘sod it’ and got on with it. After all, I wouldn’t be serving the salmon with the skin on, so the scales shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
I spread the curing mixture between two glass dishes, sliced the fish into two and placed each piece skin down into the mix. After cling filming each dish I stuck them in the fridge and got ready for work.
I’d timed everything so that the salmon was ready for turning at 6pm (which I was able to do thanks to it being dead at work). The salmon then went back in the fridge for another 20 hours, i.e. until 2pm the following day (today).
As I had a day off today, I was able to deal with the salmon at 2pm. All I needed to do was wash the mixture off and clingfilm it back up again for later use. Of course I had to sneak a taste first…
The colouring is amazing. That deep red against the burnt orange of the salmon is stunning. Taste wise, it’s salty, but sweet with a hint of aniseed from the tarragon and fennel seeds. The texture is slightly tough on the outer layer, but within, it is soft and and gentle.
It will make a lovely starter, served with bread and butter, nothing more.
Have you cured salmon before? What recipe do you use? Any top tips to share?