Everyone knows that fish is best enjoyed as fresh as possible, so if you've bought some fresh fish on your weekly shopping trip, you ought to eat it within the first two days, ideally. There's another solution though, which may not seem obvious. You can easily salt the fish to cure it, which extends its shelf life considerably. As a bonus, it also improves the texture and flavour. In my opinion, salting fish is a no-brainer. An old chef friend of mine, Hearty, is also a firm advocate of salting fish before cooking it. Often, he's not salting it for as much as a day or more to properly "cure" it, but completely covering it in salt for just 20 or 30 minutes, which has the effect of firming up the fish and makes the skin extra crisp when fried in a hot pan. Curing it for longer, though, will preserve the fish for longer and allow you to continue enjoying it for several days.
Here I have made a herb-cured salmon, sort of a simple version of Swedish gravlax. The recipe combines the salmon with a wonderful combination of Jersey Royal potatoes (for me, one of the seasonal highlights of the year), basil and lemon. It's a lovely light summer meal. The curing takes between 48 and 72 hours, and will then store in the fridge happily for up to a week. This process works better with large pieces of fish rather than small fillets, so you will end up with more than you need for the dish. You can keep the extra in the fridge for another meal, or freeze it.
for the cured salmon
- 50 g sea salt
- 10 juniper berries, crushed
- 1 large handful dill
- 1 large handful coriander
- 1 large handful parsley
- 700 g salmon, in one piece
- 1 tbsp cracked black pepper
- 250 g Jersey Royal potatoes
- 1 large handful baby spinach
- 2 handfuls fresh basil leaves
- 2 spoonfuls creme fraiche
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- ½ lemon
- good quality extra virgin olive oil
Cut the salmon in half across the fillet to create two square-ish pieces. Place the salt, cracked black pepper, juniper berries, dill, coriander and parsley into a blender and blend to a paste. Spread the over the flesh of both pieces of salmon, making sure it is all covered. Spread a little onto the skin side, too. Place the pieces of salmon together with the flesh sides touching, then tightly wrap in cling film. Place in a tray, and put a heavy weight on top. Refrigerate for between 36 and 72 hours, depending on how cured you want it. The longer you leave it, the saltier (and more flavoursome) it will be. Turn the salmon over every 24 hours.
When the salmon is ready, remove the cling film and rinse off the cure mix briefly with cold water. Don't rinse it too much as you will lose some flavour. Dry with kitchen paper, then cut off enough for the dish, about 80g per person. Cut into approx. 1cm chunks, then set aside.
Place the potatoes in a pan and cover with cold water. Add a generous pinch of salt, then bring to the boil. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
Saute the spinach, season lightly with salt. Squeeze out any excess liquid from the spinach, then place in a mixing bowl. Cut some 5mm slices (1 slice per serving) from the lemon, cut into dice and add to the bowl. Add the basil, the diced salmon and a generous glug of olive oil, then mix together whilst still warm. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve in wide bowls with a dollop of creme fraiche alongside. Finally, garnish with some basil leaves and small segments of lemon.