Beetroot Gravalax

I was pretty thrilled and excited when preparing for Christmas this year. It was to be the first year that I have made a proper Christmas dinner, as Night Owl’s mother finally caved in and agreed to join us for dinner on Christmas Day. She is not a big meat eater, stating that she prefers seafood, and so after doing some research on seafood mains for Christmas, I decided to make a big dish of Beetroot Gravalax with Goats Curd from the Delicious recipe archives. I also made slices of roast duck breast with an orange cognac sauce, duck fat roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary, a mushroom pate, and a salad of greens, prosciutto de Parma, slices of white peach, Brie and balsamic and garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil.

I started the Gravalax the day ahead (Christmas Eve), prepping nice and early in the morning. I had gone to the fish market the weekend before and selected a whole salmon to be filleted, and once I got home had carefully trimmed and pin-boned one fillet before wrapping it tightly in cling film prior to freezing. Considering it would just be three for dinner, I halved the fillet as I didn’t want to cure too much fish and not be able to finish it before Night Owl and I left Sydney for our New Year’s celebrations.

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You can cure fish by subjecting it to fermentation, pickling, smoking, or a combination of these prior to eating it. It’s a process that goes back for thousands of years, the term “cure” deriving from the Latin “curare”, meaning “to take care of”. The recipe is a salt cure, meaning the removal of water and addition of salt to the fish to create a solute-rich environment where by osmotic pressure, water would be drawn out of microorganisms (the ones which cause the fish to go off), retarding their growth and therefore preserving the fish.

It’s a ridiculously easy recipe and perfect for entertaining – if you are hosting a New Year’s party this week this would make for a very impressive centrepiece!

You will need:

  • 2 beetroots, coarsley grated (I would advise wearing gloves when you peel and grate the beetroots!);
  • 1 cup chopped dill;
  • finely grated zest of one lemon;
  • 1/4cup (60ml) gin;
  • 250g each caster sugar and rock salt;
  • 1kg skinless Tasmanian salmon fillet, pin-boned and skinned;
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard;
  • 2 cups chopped herbs (I used dill, flat leaf parsley and chives);
  • Fresh goat’s curd, to serve.

Combine the beetroot, dill, lemon zest, gin, sugar and salt in a bowl. Spread half of the mixture over the base of a glass or ceramic dish large enough to hold the fish. Don’t be an idiot and use a plastic container as the beetroot will stain. Place the fish on top, then cover with the remaining beetroot mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for up to 24 hours.

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You will notice after half time that the dish will fill up with a large amount of liquid – this is the water being drawn out of the fish – a good thing.

The next day, carefully remove the salmon from the dish, discarding the curing mixture – again, gloves are advisable here. Rinse under cold water and pat try with paper towels. Place the salmon on a platter and spread with the mustard and top with the combined herbs. Use a sharp knife to slice very thinly. Serve the salmon with goats curd.

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I don’t think there is much purpose of the beetroot other than it delicately staining the edges of the salmon in the most beautiful way. I was afraid that the salmon would be too salty and look semi-cooked, but it actually still looked raw, similar to sashimi salon. Taste-wise, it’s a little saltier than raw salmon sashimi, but when had with the topping of mustard and herbs, it’s deliciously zesty and fresh. It’s wonderfully light yet still moreish – definitely a good thing to have in the balmy few last days of 2016 in Sydney!

Speaking of – it’s going to be 37 degrees today – almost 40! I’m going to be starting my New Year’s drive up north today, so I’m quietly thankful that I will be able to enjoy the air-conditioned environment of my car. I most likely will be next posting in 2017 with the recipe for the epic Mangomisu I made for Christmas dessert, but you can catch a sneak peek of it on my Instagram – which is where I will also be posting my stories and photos from my road trip to Ballina.

Stay safe, eat well, and wishing all of you a wonderful new year xx

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