The One Where I Cured Some Fish

Did I mention that I’m on dukan?  That pretty much all I can eat is lean meat, fish, eggs and low/zero fat dairy?  That I can eat these foods in unlimited quantities?
Did I mention how butt-clenchingly expensive it is????
The thing with dukan is that you naturally gravitate towards meat and poultry because it feels like they will be the most substantial and filling things and you also feel like you get a bit more value for money.  The problem with eating meat all the time is that it makes you feel a bit sluggish and heavy because everything you’re putting into your body is heavy and substantial.  Psychologically you crave lighter things like vegetables, eggs and fish.
I like to have smoked salmon or smoked mackerel at lunchtimes because it just feels a bit more…correct.  To me, eating a huge lump of meat at lunchtime is like eating a curry at lunchtime – a bit weird and wrong.  The problem is that fish is expensive.  There isn’t really such a thing as cheap fish in the sense of battery vs free range in the land of the chicken; it’s just all expensive (unless it’s crabsticks) and when I found myself woofing down a £4 pack of smoked salmon in just shy of 90 seconds (I have three siblings, if you didn’t eat fast, you didn’t eat… [name the American sitcom I nicked that from]) I realised that something had to give.
Quite by chance, @NatanyaAbrahams was talking on twitter about curing salmon and it occurred to me that maybe this was something I could do.  I scooted on over to Ocado and found that their wild Alaskan salmon was half price!  “It’s fate!” I thought and popped a couple of large pieces in my basket along with an array of curing ingredients.
Now, what would ordinarily happen at this point is that my order would be delivered on the Friday evening with everything but the salmon.  I’m just not one of life’s lucky people…but luck struck and my salmon arrived all orange and pretty on Friday night and I set about curing it.
I was already a little practised at this because, as well as not being one if life’s lucky people, I’m also not one of life’s serene and patient people. I want INSTANT gratification, therefore I’d bought a couple of regular tiny Tesco salmon fillets on the Thursday which I had started curing that night.
For the dry spice rub (for 2 small fillets):
A good handful or so of Maldon sea salt
1 tsp toasted coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 a star anise
1/2 tsp white peppercorns
Crush all the spices up into a powder and mix with the salt.
For the beetroot marinade (for around 800g of salmon fillets):
200g sea salt
2 raw beetroot, grated
A pack of dill, chopped
A slosh of gin
Mix all the ingredients together.
Lay the salmon fillets skin side down on a large piece of cling film and coat each fillet with just under half if the mixture, pressing down hard.
Turn one upside down onto the other so that the flesh sides are together with the marinade/rub in the middle. Try to match the thick end of one piece with the thin end of the other piece.
Pat any remaining mixture around the sides of the fillets.
Wrap the fillets up tightly in lots of cling film and place the parcel in a tray with another tray on top of the salmon weighted down with tins.
Pop it in the fridge and forget about it for a bit.  Do the washing up and revel in the murderiness of the water…mwahahahahahahaha
A day later, take the trays out of the fridge, turn the parcel over (pouring away any liquid that may have leaked out), reapply the weighted tin and pop it back in the fridge for another day when you’ll give it another turn.
In total, you should let the salmon cure for at least 3 days – my beetroot had 3, the spice rubbed one had 4.
After the 3 days, take the salmon out of the wrap and brush off all if the marinade/rub, washing it if necessary.
The salmon should be ready to eat. Cut very thin slices on the diagonal and eat with a squeeze of lemon over it to cut through a bit of the saltiness. It’s interesting how different in texture the two types of salmon were. The cheaper small salmon in the dry rub is far denser than the beetroot, which is softer and wetter and a bit scarier (raw fish still creeps me out a bit.  Yeah, I know.  Leave me alone.)  I prefer the cheap stuff, but then that’s me all over.
Now. Confession time. I actually don’t like the beetroot cured one all that much – it tastes muddy and unpleasant to me but I’m not the greatest fan of beetroot at the best of times whereas most people seem to love it.  This may seem spectacularly blonde (because it is) but I kind of just thought that the salmon would go purple and pretty without actually tasting of beetroot (and dill – I HATE dill; how did I forget that?!) which is why I made it.  The moral of this story: the salmon will actually taste of the things that you put on it.  Duh.
Despite not adoring the salmon that I made, I loved doing it and I think it’s simply a matter of getting my marinade right and adding flavours that I like.  Next time I’m going to try salt, fresh coriander, garlic, ginger and chilli which is more up my street.  If you have any suggestions for marinades, bring them on. 
I’ve decided that curing salmon is going to be My Thing.  Spectacularly easy but really quite impressive.  Again, that’s me all over.

18 thoughts on “The One Where I Cured Some Fish

  1. These look SO NICE.My Fran-inspired salmon is still curing in the fridge – I think tomorrow might be The Day. It's exciting :-)Is a shame the beetroot one wasn't tasty – it's SO pretty. I like the dry cures better too, though – I like the weird solidifying effect you get.And I also (obviously) don;t really like dill, but I always put it in this stuff – I fee like something is missing without it…Good 'Thing'!

  2. Awesome post! You're a funny duck. I totally want cured salmon right now. in fact, I think I'm going to go to the fishmonger at lunchtime. If you like oranges, that is super simple ( but your coriander/ginger etc sounds absolutely delicious (would possibly swap raw garlic for raw shallots as not quite as pungent).Are you allowed herbs in your mental diet or are they classed as salad?

  3. I totally agree – the weird solidifying s definitely a good thing. I vastly prefer the texture of it which, oddly, is more akin to the wild Alaskan smoked salmon that you can buy. I shan't be using it again. You can definitely taste it in this and I just don't like it.

  4. I agree actually – shallots would be much better. I'm going to whack a bit of lime zest in it too. Thanks for your recipe, I'll take a look. And yes! We're allowed herbs and positively encouraged to use them.

  5. "Positively encouraged", as opposed to, say, threatened. EAT CHIVES OR THE CAT GETS IT. Thats good though – the orange salmon thingy is fairly plain, and so a bunch of different herbs on top is really nice.Cured meat is a funny one; tends to be a longer process, and even then it's the fattier bits that cure well because fat stops it from going off. That said…steak tartare? Or tataki ( – though is basically very rare steak with oriental bits). Only issue is using fillet – continuing down the butt-clenchingly expensive route. Maybe the clenching aids weight loss!Cannot wait for my cured salmon. Totally nicking your Oriental vibes.

  6. OH GOD. I actually hate it. Had it for my lunch and was gagging from the flavours of the dry one (not sure what I don't like in there…) and the texture of the beetroot. Maybe it won't be My Thing after all. Boak.

  7. I did mine in gin with juniper seeds, fennel seeds, salt, sugar, lemon juice and I can't remember what else but I can dig it out for you. I also did one with saffron and pernod, lemon etc which was awesome.

  8. I prefer the texture of the dry cure though but just didn't like the flavour of either. At all. And now I've just creeped myself out with the rawness of it. I had it for lunch and it just started tasting raw and then I remembered it's raw and then I got freaked out and started gagging. I'm not great with sashimi either. ARGH.

  9. Just made some with grated horseradish and vodka (disclaimer: the grated horseradish had been strained out of some horseradish vodka I had just made, hence also the, er, vodka). I busked it a bit and used a gravlax recipe I found on Epicurious but minus the dill. The finished work is now in the freezer… Wish me luck

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