Masterclass: gin-cured salmon with chef Massimo Mele

If you want to do something more than just pan searing your salmon fillet for dinner, something that’s sure to impress at your next dinner party, then try this simple at-home curing method.

I went to a masterclass recently, hosted by Huon Salmon, where chef Massimo Mele totally debunked the myth that curing salmon at home is hard. Actually it’s quite the opposite, and I’ve cured salmon fillets every week since!

The first step is to decide if you’d like to use your favourite gin or your favourite vodka (choose wisely because you’ll get to drink the rest!)

If gin is your tipple of choice, think about the flavours already in the bottle. You’ll need to add whole spices into your curing mix, so choosing ones which complement the flavour of the gin will work best. At the Huon masterclass we had ingredients like Tasmanian Pepperberry, fennel seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Since then I’ve also used juniper berries in my cures.

For those of you who prefer vodka, which is typically a flavourless spirit, things like citrus zest, fresh dill and raspberries can be used as well as your favourite whole spices to flavour the salmon as it cures.

And that’s the hardest part done.

Next, in a bowl mix equal quantities of sugar and salt (I used about 2 tablespoons each for one salmon fillet), add the flavourings you’ve selected and splash in a good slurp of the gin or vodka. Mix it all around to start dissolving the sugar and salt. Place your salmon fillet in a ziplock bag and pour in the curing mixture. Seal the bag then massage the mix into the salmon.

Then the waiting begins.

Leave the salmon in the fridge for 24 hours to cure, flipping the bag after 12 hours to make sure the salmon is evenly coated in the cure mixture. When the time is up, remove the salmon from the bag, gently rinse and pat dry with paper towel. It’s now ready to slice thinly and serve however you like!

The health benefits of salmon can’t be denied — rich in omega 3 fatty acids it’s said to reduce your risk of heart disease, boost your brain power and vitamin D levels, improve the look of your hair and skin and support the maintenance of healthy joints.

Salmon contains 10-100 times as much omega 3 as beef, chicken and lamb. So with those kind of stats it’s a good idea to get more fresh salmon into your diet. While supplements can be OK in some circumstances, getting the right nutrients through natural foods is always preferred. And as the curing method above shows, it doesn’t have to be hard to get more salmon into your diet!

If you have a larger crowd to feed, try the recipe below courtesy of Huon Salmon.

Berry-cured Huon salmon (Gravadlax)

This recipe uses the traditional Scandinavian gravadlax technique, with the addition of berries imparting a wonderful flavour and colour on the fish. Berries will vary by season and are completely interchangeable. Blackberries provide a fantastic colour but can easily be swapped depending on what is in season. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 side Huon Salmon
  • 85g raw sugar
  • 130g sea salt
  • 1 punnet raspberries
  • 1 punnet strawberries
  • 1 punnet blackberries
  • 3g Tazziberry or black peppercorns
  • 1/2 bunch dill
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1 lemon, zested

Method:

You’ll need to begin this recipe 24 hours in advance.

Ask your fish monger to fillet and pin-bone the salmon for you.

Combine all of the ingredients (apart from the salmon) in a blender and blend on high for 30 seconds to turn it into a thick liquid.

Place the salmon skin side down on baking paper in a suitable sized tray that will fit in the fridge.

Completely cover the fillet with the berry mixture using the baking paper to trap in the liquid by folding up and securing. This will ensure maximum contact between the fish and the cure.

Cover in cling film and set aside in the fridge for 24 hours, but no longer than 36. The longer it’s left in the cure, the firmer the fish will become, but it will also take on more salt.

After curing, remove the salmon from the tray and gently rinse with a little water to remove the cure mix.

Your fish is ready to be thinly sliced away from the skin. Serve with lemon and a side salad.


FF mag’s food editor Melanie Pike is an aficionado of all fine feasts, and loves nothing more than experimenting in the kitchen for her next dinner party platter. Get in touch by emailing mpike@valmorganoutdoor.com.