Entertaining season is firmly upon us – and when I say firmly upon us, I mean it has slapped us over the head with endless client lunches, after work drinks and multiple weekend catch ups. It seems everyone feels the need to try and catch up before Christmas… but why? It’s not like the world stops turning after Christmas, actually, I would probably prefer to catch up in January when I’m more relaxed.
Alas, it isn’t meant to be as we still try and fit it all in. But something has got to give if you are a real mere mortal like me. It’s either the Christmas shopping that gets left till last, or the Christmas Day feast planning. Never fear though, I am on the case to give you a minimum effort, maximum return dish that well and truly can be prepared ahead, is served cold and will make you look like a star. It’s great for either a pre-Christmas gathering where you have to bring a dish or the start of the feast for the epic day of days.
I had been thinking about making this beetroot and gin cured salmon for Christmas for a little while, and after mentioning it in conversation to the awesome people at Huon Aquaculture who I know through my work with Opera Australia, they quickly offered to “hook me up” with an incredibly fresh side of salmon (seriously, these Huon guys need to be my new “best” friends with their sweet Salmon connections).
Those who are regular readers of Chew Town know that if theres Gin to be drunk… I’m there! However, if you dig a little deeper, you will notice that whenever Gin is involved, its always Hendrick’s. This is not because I have any special relationship with Hendrick’s (in-fact I’ve never drunk a bottle that hasn’t been paid for), its because Hendrick’s Gin is just that.damn.good. It’s THE only reason I drink gin… by the bucketload.
When planning this beetroot and gin cured salmon side history and my palate dictated that the gin would be Hendrick’s. Using that as the base, I looked into the botanicals and aromatics used in the making of the gin I so admire, and incorporated them into the curing mixture. So, along with beetroot, in this curing mixture you will find cucumber, juniper berry, fennel and rose. It gives the resulting cured salmon an incredible fresh and floral fragrance and is well worth the extra ingredients.
I busted this bad boy out at a weekend away in the country with lovely friends and served it on little wholemeal blini with nigella seeds, creme fraiche and dill tips. There were nine of us in the room and we had to literally pull ourselves away from it to get to the other courses. I cannot recommend this truly make ahead dish enough for entertaining. I put it all together, let it cure in the beetroot mix for two days, and then cleaned it all up and stored in the fridge till ready to eat. It is the perfect make ahead meal and will have you looking like a star for hardly any effort at all.
NOTE: A twinsies recipe shout out to the gorgeous Winston over on The Hungry Excavator. Just as I had my salmon doing its curing in the fridge, I saw him share a lovely Beetroot and Gin Cured Salmon recipe over on his blog (great minds think alike as they say)! Luckily, after reading his recipe I realised ours have different flavours (phew!) – so why not try his after you’ve had a crack at my recipe below.
Beetroot and Hendrick’s Gin Cured Salmon
- 1 side salmon, skin off and pinboned*
- 1/4 cup Hendrick's Gin
- 1kg beetroot
- 1 lebanese cucumber
- 120g sea salt flakes
- 120g demerara sugar
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries, crushed
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
- 1 teaspoon dried rose petals, crushed
- Fennel fronds from 1 bulb fennel
- Freshly grated pepper
If you have a juicer, juice the beetroot and cucumber together and using the juice for another recipe, keep the pulp that remains from the juicing and place in a large bowl. If you do not have a juicer, only use 1/2 the beetroot for the recipe and the cucumber and grate with a box grater instead.
To the bowl with the beetroot and cucumber pulp, add the salt, sugar, orange zest, juniper berries, fennel seeds, rose petals, fennel fronds and black pepper and mix till well combined.
Taking the salmon side, baste it well on both sides with Hendrick's Gin using a pastry brush. Lay out 2-3 layers of cling film (enough to cover the salmon, and place 1/2 the beetroot mixture on top. Spread it out till it is a little larger than your salmon side and place the salmon on top. Spread the remaining beetroot mixture on top of the salmon to cover. Wrap the entire salmon fillet in the cling film ensuring the beetroot mixture is completely covering it on both side. Place in a dish in the fridge with one side propped up slightly to drain faster, and then weigh it all down with a heavy object (some cans work well if you have them on hand).
After 24 hours check on the salmon by draining off any juices that might have pooled in the bottom of the dish. Leave for another 24 hours then drain again.
After 48 hours, remove the salmon from the fridge and unwrap. Remove and discard the beetroot mixture from the salmon and wash the whole fillet well with water. Pat it completely dry and serve by slicing off pieces on an angle against the grain with a sharp knife.
If making with the blini (recipe below) serve the slices on the blini with creme fraiche, dill tips and a squeeze of lemon.
Wholemeal Blini with Nigella Seeds
- 3/4 cup plain flour
- 1/4 cup wholemeal flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon nigella seeds (or black sesame seeds)
- 1 cup yoghurt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Unsalted butter and olive oil for shallow frying
In a bowl, mix together the plain and wholemeal flour, baking powder, salt and nigella seeds. Once combined, add the yoghurt and lemon juice and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
Heat a large heavy based fry pan over medium heat and add a little butter and oil to coat the base of the pan. Gently drop 1/2 tablespoon sized amounts of batter in the pan and cook for 1 minute each side until golden. Repeat with remaining batter adding butter and oil when necessary.
Cool between paper towels to drain the butter and oil and set aside covered in the fridge until ready to serve.