At least in Sweden, gravlax is sliced salmon that has been marinated in various spices as a way of preservation, it's never buried in the ground. Actually, you have to be pretty careful when preparing gravlax and deep-freeze the fish for at least 24 hours to get rid of bacteria that would otherwise thrive. Compare with sushi, which is also frozen before (in fact, if you are doing sushi at home and don't trust your local fish monger enough to eat his salmon raw, you can use gravlax instead).

Gravlax is really two words, 'grav' meaning 'grave' or 'tomb' and 'lax' meaning 'salmon'. See also snorlax.

I have this expensive habit of munching smoked salmon out of the packet. I find the stuff so more-ish, and luckily I have an Aldi nearby, which does restrict the expense a bit. Anyway, my craving for salty raw fish (also expressed in trips to IKEA to stock up on herring) is can be nicely satisfied by the delicious stuff that is gravlax.

Very tasty, this is Swedish dill-cured salmon. It satisfies the same needs as smoked salmon and can be used for similar things. It has its own distinctive, subtly fresh flavour from the dill. The other major benefit that this has, which puts it above smoked salmon, is that it is relatively cheap to make, as fresh salmon is obviously a lot cheaper than smoked.

You really should freeze the salmon briefly in order to kill parasites. I have to admit I never bother, which is probably foolish. You want to get the best salmon you can really justify for this, as you really will taste it. Wild salmon is ideal, but pricy. Glenarm organic farmed salmon is also very good, and not quite as expensive as wild. Failing that, get get your fish from a fishmonger you trust. Needless to say, the fish must be incredibly fresh. The eyes should be bright and not sunken, and it should have very little smell. Ideally you should use a whole salmon, which you should get your fishmonger to fillet and pin bone, leaving the skin on the two sides, but you could do one side at a pinch.

Ingredients

  • 1 small salmon. Weigh this.
  • salt: 1 oz per lb / 30g per 500g of salmon
  • sugar: ½ oz per lb / 15g per 500g of salmon
  • dill: a massive bunch. Don't bother chopping properly. Just break it up a bit.

Method

Check the salmon for remaining bones by running your fingers over the flesh. (mmm..nice) Mix the salt and sugar together and pack it heavily on the flesh of one of the salmon sides. Pile the sprigs of dill over the salmon, then put the other side, flesh down, on top of the salt, sugar and dill. The fish should sort-of reassembled now.

Wrap the fish in cling film or similar, and put it into a dish of some sort. Put this in the fridge. It'll take about 3 days. You should turn it occasionally to ensure the thing marinades evenly.

When it's done, scrape the dill off the fish, leaving the pink flesh, flecked with green. It should be sliced thinly.

Traditionally this is served with mustard sauce. It's nice with some sweet pickled cucumber slices too, or just hacked off the fish at 4 in the morning when the munchies attack.

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