Well, I always was a little bit last minute for Christmas. The whole thing just gathers and pushes back on me like a violent huffing concertina. Every year it seems like I might be on top of it, but like everything else, I don’t know when to stop. I add more, I flitter along after ideas too long, and in the end, that might mean that the night before I fly to Canada, I am sitting surrounded by chaos with laundry drying on the radiators, more laundry spinning in the machine (mirroring the spinning of my head), looking at a pile of work to do and wondering how I will get through it.

It is ok, I will get through it, I always do. This is how I roll. When you love what you do, you sometimes get carried away. That is ok, isn’t it?  

That is how I found myself trotting off to the fishmongers at the weekend. Into my head had popped a combination that might have been a cocktail, instead I thought about how wonderful it would be with fish. Specifically, with salmon in gravlax (aka gravadlax), that gorgeous Scandinavian cured fish dish. If you have never had any, you could say it is a sibling of smoked salmon, but instead of the aroma of smoke, you have the flavours that you cured it in, very gently, within. The salmon texture (assuming you use good salmon) is wonderful and light, it isn’t oily at all.

Gravlax at its base is fish cured with sugar, salt and usually dill. But, you know what, I can’t bear dill. There was a time when I loved it but then it started to overwhelm and now it is everywhere and I am not happy about that. So, when given a choice, I will throw it out and put in something else in its place.

Lots of gravlax recipes use alcohol too. I have made many with spirits like vodka and sake, and a few with gin. Gin is a perfect ingredient here as it is subtly aromatic and so you can play around with other flavours depending on the profile of the gin that you use. I wanted to use something very direct, and so I chose Chase single botanical gin, which just has juniper (all gins do), and makes for a great G&T but I thought would be perfect with fish (also venison).

Lime, because gin and salmon both love it and I wanted a sharp acidity in the cure. The cranberries are subtle as I use them raw, and they are very astringent, but lightly crushed before adding them, they add a lovely layer to the dish.

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I cured this over 48 hours, but if you don’t have that much time this close to Christmas, you can try a lighter 24 hour cure. I served it with tarragon, which I had in the fridge, and was very pleasantly surprised by what the gentle anise flavour added to it.

Serve on crackers with halved soft boiled quail eggs and some herbs like tarragon, chervil or flat leaf parsley (quail eggs: boil for exactly 2.5 minutes, then refresh in cold water and peel). Or piled on a plate with homemade mayo, avocado and other bites.

RECIPE: Gin, Lime & Cranberry Gravlax (aka Gravadlax aka Gorgeous Scandinavian Cured Salmon)

Ingredients

500g raw salmon, I leave the skin on until it is cured, but skin off is fine and better for shorter times
50g brown sugar
25g sea salt
75g fresh cranberries, bashed about a bit in a bag with a rolling pin, or similar
1 lime, cut into narrow slices
60ml gin
a dish that the salmon will sit comfortably in, or storage container

Method

Put all of the ingredients for the gravlax, except the salmon, into the container that you are using. Mush everything around a bit.
Add the salmon and rub everything in gently. Cover and put in the fridge.
The next day, take the salmon out and turn it around, rub everything in gently again and leave until 48 hours in total is up.
Remove from the fridge and rinse the salmon. Remove the skin if still on, and serve in slices.
It is good, isn’t it?

Merry Christmas!

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Niamh

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