Gravlax with dill. It can hardly get more Nordic. It’s a lunch classic throughout Scandinavia, but not surprisingly it has also become a popular delicacy around the world. It’s really very easy to make, and I promise you the homemade gravlax beats any good quality store bought gravlax you can find. It’s equally delicious for lunch and as a starter, or as an palatable buffet feature.
The idea of preparing the fish in this manner goes back to the Middle Ages when fishermen in Scandinavia came up with this ingenious method for curing and fermenting salmon in order for it to keep longer yet still be fresh and edible while kind of raw. The word ‘grav’ is related to the Danish word for ‘dig’, which is precisely what the fishermen would do. They stored the fish in a hole dug in the ground, then covered it with stones and bark, let it cure and after a week or so their gravlax dinner was ready. I must admit I prefer storing it in a modern fridge these days, not least because it saves me the trouble of digging a whole in my yard.
Most Danes traditionally serve gravlax with something called ‘rævesauce’ (directly translates into ‘fox sauce’), a salty, sharp and aromatic dressing with mustard, vinegar, sugar and dill. However, we’ve freestyled a bit and made a homemade sour cream and dill oil. Feel free to try both sauce options and see which one you like best. For the basic curing seasoning we’ve also added fennel and coriander seeds, making the taste a bit more complex and interesting, we find. But if you don’t like one or either seeds, you can easily leave them out. Some people also top it off with a bit of alcohol, schnapps, vodka or brandy, poured onto the seasoning. Just a couple of tablespoons will do, and it will give the taste a bit of further depth.
Gravlax with dill – enough for at least 10 servings
For the gravlax with dill:
About 2.5 lbs (1 kg) raw salmon, preferably without skin. (Make sure the salmon has been frozen for at least 7 days in a conventional freezer before using it, or ask your fish monger for sushi grade salmon)
2 tbsp salt
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp crushed black pepper
1 tbsp crushed fennel seeds
1/2 tbsp crushed coriander seeds
2 bunches (2 large handfuls) fresh dill
Fresh microgreens or leafed greens to serve
Optional: edible flower petals
For homemade sour cream and dill oil:
8.5 oz (1 cup/250 ml) whole cream
1 lime, juice only
Salt and pepper
3.5 oz (100 ml) olive oil
1 small bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
For ‘rævesauce’ (sweet and spicy sauce) – the traditional side:
3.5 oz (100 ml) canola (rapeseed) oil
2 tbsp white wine or apple cider vinegar
1.7 oz (50 ml) Dijon mustard
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 bunch/1 handful fresh dill, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Step 1 (at least 24 hours before serving): The gravlax
1. Wash the dill very thoroughly to make sure there is no dirt left on it. Chop it finely. Crush the pepper along with the fennel and coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle. Make sure the salmon is completely clean and free of any bones (use tweezers to remove if there should be any).
2. Mix the spices with the salt and sugar and sprinkle about half of it in an even layer on one side of the salmon along with about half the chopped dill. Take out a large piece of cling film and place the salmon on it with the seasoned side down. Then sprinkle the rest of the seasoning and the dill on the other side of the salmon. Wrap up the salmon tightly in cling film and place in a dish large enough for the salmon to lie flat.
3. Put the salmon in the fridge and turn around about every 8 hours or so. (As the salmon cures it will start releasing some of its oils, this is how it should be and a sign that the curing process is doing its work.)
Step 2 (the day before): Sour cream and dill oil or ‘rævesauce’
1. For the sour cream, mix the cream with the lime juice in an airtight bottle or container. Shake well, and let rest at room temperature overnight. The next day, put in the fridge to cool until serving. Just before serving, season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Mix the olive oil and dill and keep refrigerated until about 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving.
3. For the ‘rævesauce’, whisk all the ingredients well together and season with salt and pepper. Adjust the taste with a bit more mustard, sugar or vinegar depending on whether you like it a bit more sweet or sour. Keep refrigerated until serving.
Slice the salmon into thin slices and serve with greens, perhaps mixed with some edible flower petals, and the sour cream and dill oil or the ‘rævesauce’ as garnish.