Curing your own salmon really isn’t as difficult as it sounds. It’s an immensely satisfying job and the finished product looks and tastes amazing. The colour of the beetroot doesn’t quite seep into the centre, giving a lovely colour contrast, while the delicate flavours of the dill with the pink peppercorns and vodka really come through. A special starter for Christmas dinner which, thankfully, must be prepared in advance*.
Beetroot cured salmon with horseradish crème fraîche
500g piece of salmon, pin-boned and scaled (skin on)
1 tbsp grated fresh or preserved horseradish
175g crème fraîche
6–8 thin slices rye bread
Fresh dill or watercress, to serve
2 raw beetroot (about 200g)
1 tsp pink peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp juniper berries
60g coarse sea salt
50g golden caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1⁄2 orange
2–3 tbsp freshly chopped dill
3 tbsp vodka
A baking sheet lined with three layers of clingfilm
1 To prepare the beetroot cure, peel and coarsely grate the beetroot into a large mixing bowl. Lightly crush the peppercorns, fennel seeds and juniper berries using a pestle and mortar. Add them to the bowl with the salt, sugar, citrus zests and half the dill.
2 Scatter one-third of the beetroot cure over the prepared baking sheet and lay the salmon on top, skin-side down. Cover the salmon with the remaining cure, pressing it into an even layer over the fish. Spoon the vodka over the top and wrap the fish tightly in the cling film. Lay another tray or tin on top of the salmon and weigh it down with something heavy. Set in the fridge for at least 2 days to cure.
3 Take the salmon from the fridge and unwrap it over a sink to catch the juices. Using your hands, scrape off as much of the cure as possible and pat the fish dry with paper towels. Finely chop the remaining dill and press into the top (flesh side) of the salmon. Using a very sharp knife, cut the salmon into wafer thin slices – cutting down to, but not through the skin, so you can transfer it easily to a serving platter.
4. Mix the grated horseradish with the crème fraîche and season. Thinly butter the rye bread and cut into bite-sized pieces. Spread with the créme fraîche and lay the salmon slices on top. Garnish with a little dill or watercress and a twist of freshly ground black pepper.
* The salmon needs at least two days to cure in the fridge
Recipe from Afternoon Tea at Home by Will Torrent, photography Matt Russell (Ryland Peters & Small)