‘Gravad lax’ is Swedish for ‘cured salmon’. | Marc Fosh

I found some lovely, farmed salmon at the market the other day. With its beautiful pink-orange flesh, meaty, succulent flavour and numerous health benefits, it’s no wonder that salmon is such a popular fish. It’s also extremely versatile and holds up to almost any cooking method whether it’s served raw as delicate sashimi, smoked with a variety of aromas, vividly cured with salt, gently poached, roasted or fried, this oil-rich fish is a popular restaurant choice, but you can also work wonders with it at home.

I used half of my beautiful looking salmon to make a delicious Gravad lax. ‘Gravad lax’ is Swedish for ‘cured salmon’ and was probably invented a long time ago when fishermen would save part of their catch by burying it in the beach. Presumably the salt in the sand had a preservative effect to prolong its shelf life for a while. It achieved a lot of fame sometime in the 1980s, became passé in the 1990s, when sushi and cerviche took over, but I really think the time is right for a welcome comeback. I sliced my salmon and served it with a green salad and pickled cucumbers…it was just perfect for a light lunch. The other half of the salmon I steamed with Asian flavours such as soy, sesame, chilli and ginger and served with papaya and glass noodle salad. It was relatively cheap and extremely delicious!

In my view there is no substitute to seasonal wild salmon in terms flavour and texture. The very appearance of a wild salmon is a joy to behold. It’s had a life that’s been full of adventure. Swimming up and down stream, out to sea and back again, leaping waterfalls and gorging on small prawns and other crustaceans developing that beautiful, pinkish colour and wonderful flavour. Unfortunately, wild salmon is very difficult to find these days, but farmed salmon is extremely abundant and a relatively cheap alternative. Although it is not big on flavour, it is very easy to cook. Its fatty make-up allows you to overcook it slightly without spoiling the texture of the fish. Salmon can be flavoured with anything from fresh dill to juniper berries, pink peppercorns, orange, cauliflower and earthy beetroot.

Gravad Lax

Serves 4-6

  • 2 x 350g pieces of de-boned salmon (cut from the middle section with the skin on)
  • 50g sea salt
  • 40g sugar
  • A small bunch of dill, chopped
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
  • Grated zest of lemon
  • 2 tbsp gin
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

Mix the salt, sugar, peppercorns and lemon zest in a bowl. Pat the salmon fillets dry with kitchen paper and run your hands over the flesh to see if there are any remaining small bones – if there are, use a pair of tweezers to pull them out. Place the first fillet of salmon skin-side down in a dish and then pack the salt cure all over the flesh. Drizzle with gin and top with the 2nd fillet, flesh-side down. Cover with cling film and place a small weight on top. (a couple of tins is fine) Place in the fridge for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. The longer you leave it, the more cured it will become. Unwrap the fish and brush off the marinade with kitchen paper. Rinse briefly in cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place the fillets skin side down and, using a pastry brush, brush liberally with Dijon mustard. Cover all over with chopped dill. You can slice the fish classically into long thin slices, leaving the skin behind, or remove the skin it and slice it straight down. Serve the sliced fish on a large platter or individual plates with a small green salad, pumpernickel bread and lemon wedges.

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Thai steamed salmon with papaya-glass noodle

Steaming is a great, healthy way of cooking salmon. You can use either a traditional pan or bamboo steamer. Add about 5cm of boiling water to the saucepan, then fit the steamer over, making sure it doesn't come into contact with the water, and cover with a tight-fitting lid.

Serves 4

  • 4 x 175g salmon fillets, skinned
  • 1 bunch coriander, washed
  • 20 mint leaves
  • 1tbsp chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large red chili, finely chopped
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tbsp nam pla (fish sauce)
  • 4 bok choi (Chinese cabbage), cut in half lengthways

In a food processor blend together the coriander leaves and stalks, the mint leaves, ginger, garlic, salt, chili, lime juice and fish sauce. Blend until smooth.

Place the salmon fillets in a shallow dish and pour over half of the sauce. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes. Turn on the steamer and place the bok choi on the bottom layer. Place the marinated salmon fillets in the top half of the steamer and cook for 6- 8 minutes until the fish is just cooked and the bok choi is tender. Remove the salmon and bok choi from the steamer and arrange on 4 plates. Pour the reserved sauce over the salmon and serve immediately with papaya & glass noodle salad and lime wedges.

Papaya & Glass noodle salad

  • 100g Glass noodles
  • 1/2 medium papaya, peeled and sliced
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ medium Green pepper, cut into strips
  • 100g bean sprouts
  • 1 red chili, sliced
  • 2tbsp fish sauce
  • Juice of one lime
  • Salt to taste
  • 2tbsp roasted peanuts, crushed
  • A few sprigs fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Soak the noodles in the hot water for a few minutes. Drain, refresh and add the olive oil. Add the papaya slices, garlic, green pepper, bean sprouts and red chili. Season with the fish sauce, lime juice and seasoning. Mix well and garnish with crushed roasted peanuts coriander leaves.