We managed to go for a ride on the motorbike for the first time this year – the wind was still chilly and I had a super runny nose during the ride, but the sun is definitely getting stronger, we’ve waited so long for it this year.
We headed for the beach this time – there were quite a few people (and dogs) already, embracing the arrival of the spring in their own style (which, for humans at least, means enjoying fish & chips :))
We were early enough to see fishermen selling ‘today’s catch’ on the beach – all of them looked tempting but I got sea bass as I had a must-try recipe in mind.
I was intrigued by the gravlax recipe in Exploring Taste and flavour by Tom Kime – he’s worked for David Thompson as well as Rose Gray and Rick Stein and it’s clear from the recipes that he’s been influenced by lots of different cuisine. I like his little twists in each recipe – his unique approach to the classics is quite interesting.
He suggests using salmon like normal gravlax too, but I was tempted to use sea bass for this recipe and it turned out really delicious. I was just happy having the thin slices of fish on their own, but the salad I tried from another of his recipes made it even better. I loved the combination of the subtle spiciness of the fish with sweet beetroot (roasted with garlic, thyme and olive oil), fennel and bitter peppery salad leaves. I’ve always associated gravlax with sweet dill and mustard sauce, but the herb creme fraiche dressing works really well with this salad.
Be sure to use coarse salt to cure the fish, as if it’s too fine the moisture will dissolve the crystals and the fish will absorb too much salt too quickly – and of course you’ll need very fresh fish! I’m pretty sure I’ll be making this again soon, but am tempted to cure salmon with pureed beetroot also…
Hopefully we can go back to the beach again soon and enjoy a big scoop of ice-cream next time…
salting mix to cure one side of salmon or two sides of sea bass
6 juniper berries
4 whole star anise
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
400g coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 lemon, cut into rough chunks
freshly ground black pepper
zest of 1 lemon
handful of freshly chopped dill, chopped
Clean, scale and pinbone the fillets. Cut each fillet into 2-3 pieces of roughly the same size and thickness (it’s important that all the fish absorbs the salt at the same time).
Place all the spices for the salting mix into a food processor with 1 tablespoon of the sea salt. Pulse the mixture to break up the spices. Add the rest of the salt and the sugar with lemon, then pulse until the lemon is broken up and you have a uniform, coarse mixture.
Scatter a layer of the salt and spice mixture at least 1cm thick into a container. Place the fish pieces side by side on the salt. Scatter another 1cm layer of the salt mixture over the fish and repeat the layering until all the salt is used up and the fish is covered.
Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 8-12 hours depending on the thickness. The fish will become quite firm and pale in colour (you can leave it longer if you like – you have to soak it longer afterwards).
Remove the fish and rinse under cold water. Soak in cold water for about an hour, changing the water every 10-15 minutes. Dry with kitchen paper.
Using a sharp knife, slice the fish diagonally as thinly as possible. Season with black pepper and scatter the lemon zest and dill over the fish.
for the dressing
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon caster sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
1 tablespoon chopped dill
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the mustard in a bowl and whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Add the sugar, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. Mix in the creme fraiche and the dill, then season with salt and black pepper.