WHY GRAVADLAX? My grandfather was Danish, born in a windswept little town on the North Sea. Whether it was chance, fate or good fortune that lead him to marry a Melbourne girl, he ended up in Australia, and apart from a handful of brief visits, he never really went home again. In his dotage, with my grandmother long-dead, he slowly succumbed to a wistful sort of homesickness, and in the year before he died, he would spend hours sitting on a bench on Melbournes Brighton Beach, gazing forlornly out to sea, quite unable to articulate his loss. Certain things cheered him, however, and my mothers Gravadlax was amongst them
For the purposes of this review, Gravadlax is a Scandinavian dish that involves curing the freshest possible salmon in a mixture of spices, fresh dill, white wine and vodka. It is Most Definitively Not that which can be found in the cold & fishy aisle of your local supermarket, vacuum-sealed in plastic, sometimes fringed with dill, or accompanied by a sickly little pocket of dirty-looking, mustardy sauce. Gravadlax is a labour of love, a delectably satisfying reward for care, attention, and a free hand with the vodka Supermarket Gravadlax, to me, is little more than a Frankenstinian form of smoked-salmon; too pink, too plasticky, and all-too-likely to have been farmed in the sorts of places the Daily Mails Health-Scares would be lost without. Real Gravadlax, on the other hand, is plump and rosy and redolent of the sea, of fresh, salty breezes, and of Christmas
CHRISTMAS: Every Christmas, in honour of my grandfather, and perhaps as a conciliatory nod to her fragile Scandinavian heritage, my mother would order a large slab of salmon and make a Gravadlax, which would then be served alongside all the usual, Anglo-Saxon suspects on Christmas Day. By the usual suspects I refer, of course, to turkey, ham, over-boiled vegetables, and over-boiled puddings. For those of you who have never had the dubious pleasure of eating a hot, four-course lunch in temperatures exceeding 35C, let me assure you, you really have been spared a revolting ordeal. And astonishingly, this is still precisely what a Christmas lunch in Australia generally entails. Open-minded types are gradually introducing Prawn Cocktails into the mix, and there are seasonally-recurrent rumours of people who even barbeque their Christmas Dinners, but these remain unsubstantiated Point being, the average fare served up to Australians on Christmas Day differs very little from that served up in Edinburgh, or the Midlands, or anywhere else in the British Isles, and in this case, whats good for the proverbial goose is just Plain Wrong for the gander. Enter Gravadlax; the perfect dish for the perfect occasion. With my mothers perfectly tempered mustard & dill sauce (more on this later ), and a few slices of rye, or fresh baguette, it is generally served as a starter but if I had my way, it would always be the Main.
INSTRUCTIONS: Gravadlax usually takes two to three days to prepare. Its probably worth ordering the salmon well in advance, in order to be sure of its presence, as much as its provenance! Only the very best quality, sushi-grade salmon will do. The cut used should always be that neat, centre part, unencumbered by the untidiness of a head or tail. Ideally, it should be about 11 inches long and 9 across, in order to fit comfortably into a casserole dish. If possible, to make matters easier, get the fishmonger to slice the fish, lengthways, into two equal parts and to de-bone it for you, but other than rough scaling, leave the skin well alone. The resultant portions, when stacked back together, should resemble a sort of fat & fishy ciabatta. If de-boning yourself, use tweezers and proceed with care. Stray bones in Gravadlax are a Very Bad Thing indeed. Not only do they present the very real possibility of an unintentional homicide, they can make the finished, cured fish almost impossible to slice neatly, and thus, to look suitably pretty on the plate.
THE CURE: As said, allow for at least two days to complete the curing process. Its perfectly acceptable to eat it after 24 hours, it just wont be as intensely cured. Other than the salmon, youll require the following ingredients;
1/4 Cup Sea/Rock Salt
1/4 Cup Sugar
1-2 Tablespoons Crushed Peppercorns
2 bunches Fresh Dill, stalk-ends removed.
1/4 Cup Aquavit or Vodka
1/4 Cup White Wine
1) Lay a long sheet of cling film across the casserole dish, and place one side of salmon on top, skin side down. Place the second side of salmon onto a separate dish.
2) Mix the salt, sugar and crushed peppercorns together, and spread them evenly across the two pieces of salmon. If desired, you can also add a little lemon zest at this stage. Press one bunch of dill on top of each side of salmon.
3) Mix the wine and Vodka together in a jug & pour over.
4) Carefully lift the second piece of salmon and press on top of the piece in the casserole dish, also transferring across any excess liquid.
5) Pull up the cling film to cover and wrap. Press down and cover with a plate large enough to cover the salmon, and weigh down with something suitably heavy. I usually use whatever I have to hand, even tinned food if necessary, although obviously kitchen weights are best. Place in the refrigerator & erm get on with your life!
TWELVE HOURS LATER: Remove the weights, unwrap, and carefully turn the salmon over, so that the top side is now underneath and vice-versa. Baste with the accumulated liquid. Re-wrap, replace weights and return to the fridge. Repeat this process every 12 hours over the next two days.
CURED! Your Gravadlax is now complete. Remove from the casserole, and separate into two halves. Discard the dill & scrape off any excess cure mix. Now for the tricky bit! Make sure you have a very sharp carving knife. Slice the fish as thinly as possible across the top, so that your knife is almost flat on the fish. There may be some white, fatty strips along the edges; discard these, or give them to the cat. Arrange the slices on a serving platter.
THE SAUCE: This Dill and Mustard Sauce is foolproof, very quick to prepare & the perfect accompaniment to Gravadlax. It will keep in the fridge for at least a couple of days, as will the fish. You will need the following ingredients;
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 tsp Mustard powder
1 Tbs White wine or Cider vinegar
1 Tbs caster sugar
6 Tbs sunflower oil
1 Tbs finely chopped, fresh dill
salt and pepper
1) Mix the sugar and mustard powder in a bowl with the vinegar. It is important to use caster sugar, as ordinary sugar takes a little while to dissolve and can make the sauce a little granular.
2) Beat in the oil gradually, until you have a smooth, glossy mixture.
3) Chop the dill very finely, discarding any stalks. Stir into the mustard sauce, and season.
FINALLY Serve your Gravadlax very simply, arranged on a large platter, with the sauce in a boat on the side, and plenty of really good quality bread, preferably light rye, sliced. Garnish the fish with some thinly sliced lemon, a little more fresh dill, and a few capers. The lemon isnt strictly necessary, and the capers arent strictly traditional, but I think their saltiness cuts through the intense, succulent sweetness of the salmon very nicely.
Now its simply a matter of putting a nice, plump slice of the Gravadlax on to some bread, and drizzling with the sauce. The fish is softer than smoked salmon, with an almost juicy texture to it that is more akin to that of sashimi. It is sweet, but with quite a sharp and spicy tang. And it will quite literally melt in your mouth.
VELBEKOMME! I live in Suffolk now, quite near to the coast. Sometimes I take my little boy down to the pebbly beach at Old Felixstowe, where he tosses pebbles into the water, and watches the big ships from the Port of Harwich, gliding out across the grey sea towards Esbjerg, just over the way. And somehow, I feel quite certain that my grandfather would approve.
As a child I was given tinned salmon 'as a treat' and was obliged to eat it all, including those crunchy bits of bone and the pieces of skin which never seemed to have been removed. I grew up believing that salmon was an abomination and vowed to avoid it. It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I encountered salmon again. I was taken to a rather posh restaurant and salmon was the only thing on the menu that I recognised and I reasoned that I might not like it, but at least I knew what to expect and how to eat it. I was wrong, certainly on one point if not the other. I was served a beautiful fillet of salmon and I was hooked. We probably all remember being taught at school about the wild salmon fighting its way back upstream. If this is the vision you have in your mind when you buy your piece of salmon at the supermarket then I'm afraid I'm going to disillusion you. The vast majority of salmon is 'farmed'. Fish farming is a booming business which produces in excess of 20% of all fish consumed globally and is set to become as much of an issue as factory farming of animals. The mass production of a fish which was once only available seasonally has meant that the prices have fallen dramatically, but what was once a fine, athletic fish is now a pale imitation. The theory of fish farming is good. Fish are kept in underwater pens and fed the type of food which they would encounter if they were wild and they are 'harvested' when they reach an economic weight. The reality is different. Fish that were meant to swim free are kept in pens with limited room to move because some 'farmers', wanting to maximise profits, pack as many fish into the pens as possible. The lack of exercise produces a flabbier fish with a higher fat content. The close confinement means that diseases proliferate and drugs are used to combat this; sometimes fish are vaccinated. Artificial colours are added to the foodstu
ffs in an attempt to replicate the colour that wild fish acquire naturally from the more varied diet that they eat. I hope I haven't put you off salmon, but I do want to put you off the cheap salmon generally found in supermarkets. If you have access to a reputable fishmonger you will be able to discover the source of the salmon on offer. (I once asked this at a supermarket fish counter and was told that it had come off the lorry that morning. There was a silence and the young lady added 'or possibly yesterday. We had some left last night'.) It will almost certainly be farmed, but there are farms which keep the fish in better conditions, generally by having fewer fish in the pen so that there is more room to exercise and less need to use drugs, and this is worth buying although it will not be cheap. Some supermarkets stock organic salmon and this is certainly worth the premium that you will pay for it particularly as you will know that the fish is drug and additive free. Wild salmon is at its best between April and August. It should be avoided if you are offered it between September and January. If you are offered salmon that is supposed to be wild ask your fishmonger how he knows that it is wild and where it came from. Frauds, I am afraid, are common, but your safest way of buying wild salmon is to use a reputable fishmonger who has a lot to lose if he supplies sub-standard fish. Wild salmon look uglier than farmed fish. They have less-even dorsal and tail fins and they are likely to have more in the way of superficial injuries. You try jumping up all those rocks with out getting the odd cut or bruise! Did I hear someone say that they'd been offered a salmon by a poacher? Or did it fall off the back of a lorry? Please don't touch it. I'm not being moralistic but poachers don't always conform to the image of the aged countryman tickling fish to eek out his pension. Frequently they're less ki
ndly people prepared to use any method, including poison, to bag as many fish as possible as quickly as possible. So, how to cook your beautiful piece of salmon? I find that salmon benefits from simple cooking so that it retains its texture and flavour. The microwave seems to dismantle rather than cook the fish. Try steaming some new potatoes with the seasoned salmon wrapped in baking parchment on top of them and served (hot or cold) with a salad. Remove the paper package with a fish slice or it can collapse! Add a bottle of white wine and fresh fruit to finish and you have a splendid meal for a summer's evening. I've noticed that people tend to be nervous of cooking a whole salmon, but there's no need to be. Forget about fish kettles (unless, of course, you have one, in which case you'll hardly need my advice!) and cook the salmon in the oven. Get the fishmonger to do all the preparation for you ? that's what they're there for. You can include removing the head in that! I've never been too keen on seeing something that I'm about to eat staring at me reproachfully. Take a large piece of foil and lay it on a baking sheet. Oil it. I know the traditionalists say to use butter, but, if you're going to have the salmon cold, butter congeals and makes the whole thing look terrible. Season the fish, including the body cavity and wrap up loosely. For fish of 2.5kg or less, bake in a cool oven (about 150 degrees centigrade) for an hour. Over that weight allow 12 minutes per 500gr. Remove from the oven and either serve hot or allow to cool in the foil. Use the leftovers for sandwiches and salmon fishcakes. Smoked salmon used to be a rare treat, generally only available to the moneyed few, but supermarkets are offering packs at a ridiculously low price throughout the year. Smoked salmon, though, is only as good as the quality of the fresh fish and for this reason you should avoid anything called &
#39;smoked Pacific salmon'. This has generally been frozen before being brought to the UK for smoking and the product is inferior to fresh Atlantic salmon. You will, I'm afraid, have to read the labels of packs of smoked salmon very carefully as they are phrased to hide more than they tell. The first thing to look for is that the fish was smoked where it was caught (or harvested in the case of farmed fish). If fish has been smoked elsewhere it means that it has been transported and the simplest way of doing this is to freeze the fish. Apart from any other considerations freezing affects the texture of the salmon so the product will be inferior. 'Scottish Salmon smoked in Scotland' is clear and unequivocal and preferable to 'Smoked Scottish Salmon' or 'Salmon Smoked in Scotland' both of which can mean that the salmon has travelled some considerable distance. Look too for details of how the fish has been cured. The best will have been cured in salt to preserve it and draw out excess moisture and then washed and air-dried before being smoked over smouldering wood. The deepest flavours come from smokers who use shavings from whisky barrels. The cheapest smoked salmon will have been preserved in brine which makes it very salty. Some smokers give a catching date and a smoking date although this is generally only found on the more expensive products. Some may say that the fish has not been frozen and these guarantees do help to ensure that you are getting a better quality fish. Most packs of smoked salmon contain slices. Given the choice go for a pack where the slices are interleaved with plastic as this makes the slices easier to separate. Trying to do it with your fingers is messy and leaves an annoying aroma on your hands. Occasionally you will be able to buy a whole piece of smoked salmon. You can slice it yourself or serve pieces if you wish. The choice is yours. Now you've got you
r smoked salmon, what are you going to do with it? Once again I favour the simple approach. You will always need a sharp flavour to accompany it because it is quite oily, but a plate of smoked salmon with thinly sliced brown bread and butter with black pepper and slices of lemon or lime takes some beating. If you want to serve something that look a little classier, take slices of smoked salmon and ribbons of cucumber (potato peeler down the length of the cucumber) and accompany with a mixture of crème fraiche and horseradish sprinkled with freshly-grated black pepper. Never serve smoked salmon straight from the fridge - the flavour will be improved if it has had at least fifteen minutes to come up to room temperature. Leftovers? They don't often happen in this house but it is sometimes worth hanging on to some pieces to make smoked salmon and scrambled eggs - a real treat for a Sunday morning.
You are probably a fish lover and have clicked on this little section to find out about the best fish restaurants in town or two discover a new and enchanting recipe about fish or such, well I have got a surprise for you I am not, shock horror. Well actually that is not entirely true I will mention them but very briefly. What I am actually hear to do is to write an opinion on the ten things I hate. But wait why don’t you write it under a section called ten things I hate well the reason is simple I have looked for about 30-45 minutes searching for ten things I hate or similar but all I found was; Ten Things I Hate About You, Ten irrestatble things to take on holiday and Love and Hate: The best of Denis Brown. O.k. fine that is slightly similar to what I asked for but then things just get silly; War & Peace and I am Naz rrrriigggghhht. I chose fish because that is one of the many things I hate. Hear they are ten things I just can’t stand: 1. Fish Yes that is right fish plane old run of the mill fish found in your pound and served as a main cores. I just can’t stand them the way the just swim around without a care in the world and they don’t have the decency to even close there mouth. I suppose I don’t like them because I some as a pet once and my god they were hard to look after. Firstly you have to feed them pinch full of food every day, well how much is a pinch full I don’t know, but if you feed them to little they just stare up at you through there huge disgusting glassy eye wanting more. Then you have to change there water and grave and believe me a blow full of water and grave can be prity heavy and doing it ‘at least once every two weeks’ that’s just out of order. I just can’t stand them. 2. Priests who talk for 2 hours about the same thing I don’t often listen to sermons but one fateful Sunday I did and what a bad idea it was the sermon was about Holy Water or something.
But I recon he must of said Holy Water about 15-20 times and I do not exaggerate (yes I did sit there and count). If that was not enough when he was get to around the 1 and a half hour mark of his sermon he said the word ‘and to finish’ I saw the look of joy and glee spread over the congregations face but little did he know that he would define every word it ‘and to finish’ repeated it another 10 times. I was later told that the sermon lasted 30 minutes but it certainly felt like an hour. 3. Alarm Clocks This boy is wired I hear you say well no actually I don’t think I am who likes getting up in the morning to face a day of school or work nobody (if you do then you are weird) and what gets you up into that dazesed and confused state little squareish shaped clocks that go beep………………..beep (still asleep)…………beep…….(probably being incorporated into your dream now) beep….beep..(your awake now) beep.beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee (the dam thing will not shut up) eeeeeeee(with your last once of strength you pick it up and heal it)eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep bep eeeep bpee, and then bliss peace and quite when you awake you find the remains of what was once an alarm clock come on admit it, it has happened to you. 4. Computer nerds (like Ray Bradly) Who is Ray Bradly he is the biggest computer nerd I have ever met and he teaches at Tonbridge school, you may see nothing wrong with that but I will tell you why I hate him: 1. He wears the same brown trousers around his chest (and I mean chest) every single day. 2. He thinks he is funny I will give you an example of his humor, on the door to his office is a sign inscribed on it is ‘Mr. Bradly is not in hear the man in his office his identical cousin and knows nothing about computers’, slightly amusing the first time you read but I am told he has had it up for 2 years and he still says no
I am his identical cousin. 3. He cannot speak properly he talks like a nerd, but he is a nerd so he should talk like one and oh I’ve gone cross eyed. He says compauter instead of computer and hearing him say this 20 times a lesson can be very annoying. 5. Teachers who want to bring back the cane. Why? ‘I feel boys should be punished properly and then they won’t do it again’ my old Latin teacher would say. Well don’t think many people would want to sit in the headmasters study for 3 hours writing complete nonsense again. I personally think my old Latin teacher should be hit with a huge banana, twice. 6. People who say ‘in my day’ I am sure you have heard or had been told in my day this, in my day that. Well so what we are in the footer now and your day is not important at all HAAAAAAAAAAAA HAAAAAAAAAAA.!!!!!!!1It really gets on my nerves. 7. Rob Roy (A book) I doughty you have read it but it is the most poitinless piece of 1000 pieces of paper. Firstly it takes 500 pages to find anything interesting and then to top it of he (Rob Roy) gets paid 100 pages later and the rest of the book is spent describing his death, some may call it good but I call it pants. It is called Rob Roy it is written by Sir Walter Scot stay away you have been warned. 8. Green Things Yes one of summers colors but I hate it can you think of any decent or stylish clothes that are green, no neither can I. But my main reason is being a cricketer is those green grass stains they are so stubborn, but with new Persil Ultra they come of like a dream no no I am just kidding, but seriously they are really hard to wash off .So you may think me a Satanist (I’m not) but I hate green things. 9. Choir boys who sing too loud for their own good. Now don’t get me wrong I love the sweet sound of choir boys in the morning but there is one in the front row right to the left of the choir sta
lls in my school chapel you yes you, you sing far too loud and out of tune for your own good, I know what you are thinking ‘I am sure he has a lovely voice if he tries’ but trust me he dose not. 10. People who wear glasses to look intellectual. These sort of people are a frightful breed but I known about 3. And they really annoy what is the point glasses do not make you look that clever I dough the teacher or Bose goes ‘oh he/she wears glasses they deserve a promotion’. They don’t. Trust me my name is George. Oh and by the way how many different types of salmon are there?
Are you a bit of a smoked salmon connoisseur? Can you help others make a good choice on what to look out for, attributes to expect?