Take one large fillet of wild salmon. Please don’t use the farmed stuff – it’s pale pink and it hasn’t worked hard enough and it is all flabby like a wet tissue. A wild salmon is bright pink, firm and dense in texture. Many, many books and people will tell you to ask for the ‘thick cut’ – ie furthest away from the tail where it tapers off (where it is not so thick). If you buy the whole fillet it is often cheaper and you will have plenty to cure and sufficient at the tail end to mix with pasta, creme fraiche, dill and anchovy for a quick supper, leaving the nice thick rump and head end for your gravlax.
The gravlax takes only minutes to prepare. First wash your hands and work surface thoroughly, and pour boiling water into the container you are going to use, to sterilise it. Finely chop a large bunch of dill leaves (the equivalent of four of those little packs from Waitrose). Put the dill in a large bowl with six tablespoons of rock or seasalt, two tablespoons of light muscovado sugar, two teaspoons of black pepper and mix together. Now take your fillet and first cut off the thinner bit at the end, where it starts to taper. Cut the remaining fillet in half across the fish so that you have two thick fillets of equal (ish) size.
Use any container that can accomodate the fish and where it will fit snugly inside. Dry the container after sterilising it. Put one third of the dill mixture on the bottom. Place one thick fillet skin side down on top of the dill. Now add another layer of dill on top of the fish and finish with the second fillet and the remainder of the dill mixture. Press down hard. My addition to the Dennis recipe is to add 75ml of vodka before putting on the lid or covering in clingfilm then adding a heavy weight on top to press it all down. Put in the fridge of 24 hours then remove from the fridge and carefully remove the contents of the container onto a plate, upside down. Now use a fish slice or a pallet knife and return to the container, this time with the fillet that was at the top, now at the bottom. Scrape any dill mixture that might have escaped back onto the fish, and any vodka juices. Now leave in the fridge for another two days without touching it.
On Christmas Day, take it out of the fridge about an hour before you are going to use it, scrape away the dill cure, take one fillet and carve it thinly across the grain (not down) and eat for breakfast with scrambled eggs and rye bread. Oh and the first glass of fizz. At least, that’s what we do. Works every time.
This will keep for about a week in the fridge so long as you return it to the fridge in the original container and the cure as soon as you have carved it, and cover it tightly. Doesn’t last that long in our house though. You will get about 15-20 servings from this.
RIP Dennis and thank you.