Getting back into cooking since 2009.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cured Salmon, Blood Orange and Fennel Salad

Goddamn summer. When the temperature gets above 30 degrees or so, a lot of the things that I like to cook and eat stop being quite so attractive. No more long, slow braises, no more soft polenta spiked with handfuls of butter and Grana Padano.

The last few summers I've tried to force myself to try new things and be as excited about warm-weather cooking as I am about dishes that need to sit in the oven for four hours. That's a struggle.

The main problem? Salad is boring.

OK, so obviously salad can be just as inventive, exciting and memorable as any other kind of dish. It just usually isn't.

Cured fish has those intense, concentrated flavours, so it makes a completely non-boring base for a salad. The citrus in this salad also helps lighten things up and keep it refreshingly acidic.

It's extremely basic to prepare. Curing salmon or trout is all kinds of easy. Do it!

Cured Salmon, Blood Orange and Fennel Salad

500g salmon fillets (around two small fillets), pinbones removed
50g seat salt flakes
50g white sugar
One lemon, zest removed
One blood orange, zest removed
30ml gin or vodka or limoncello or something along those lines
Fennel bulb, with lots of herby fennel tops (you might need two bulbs worth of herby bits)

1) Combine the salt, sugar, zest and a handful of herby fennel tops in a bowl.

2) Place your salmon fillets in a plastic or glass container (I use a square Pyrex baking dish) and cover all over with the salt-sugar mixture.

3) Wrap with plastic and weigh down. I loosely wrap the Pyrex bowl, then place a small plate on top and stick a couple of beers on top of that. Works for me. Soon your dry cure will turn to a liquid brine as it sucks the moisture out of the fish.

4) Leave your salmon in the fridge for about 36-48 hours, until it's reasonably firm and cured through. Every 12 hours or so, take it out of the fridge and flip the fillets, making sure they're covered in the brine.

5) Slice all the pith off your blood orange and cut it into thin wedges (supremes). Arrange on a plate.

6) Shave thin slices of your fennel bulb with a vege peeler or mandolin. Arrange on top of the blood orange and squeeze a little bit of lemon juice top stop them browning.

7) Top with slices of your salmon and some more fennel tops. Finish with a little drip of good olive oil.

I guess summer is not that bad.

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